Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"He that hateth reproof shall die. . . "

Proverbs 15:10

What is reproof? What is death? Both of these words have a sense of ending or finality to them. Someone slaps us on the hand, or tells us we aren't good enough, so we shut down. Death ends it all. Does it? Death is certainly not the end, but it is an ending. Our bodies will lay down and our mortal turn at the bat to do all we can here on earth will come to an end.
But a reproof, a rebuke, a correction. . .surely that will stop us in our tracks. Maybe. Or maybe it will just put us on new tracks. If I balk every time I receive direction, my progression will stop. In that sense, I will die. I won't grow. I won't be better. And I certainly won't be happy. The Lord is not the only one doling out reproofs. Yesterday I was reproofed by the look on my daughter's face when I snapped at her for having an accident. . . again. I am reproofed by the sound of my own voice when I snapped at my husband for buying the wrong whipping cream. . when I was just looking at the wrong carton. I am reproofed by my son when he meekly apologizes and tells me he deserved to be yelled at. If I hate those reproofs, if I leave them where I found them and don't make them a part of me, I will die. I will lose the trust of those I love, and my progression will be stilted.
President Ezra Taft Benson's address on pride is a powerful one. A nugget:

"The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, “If you succeed, I am a failure.”

If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgment more than men’s, we will have self-esteem.

Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression."

This makes me feel intensely prideful. I am constantly reaching outward for reasons to feel good about myself. I want enough compliments from my husband to convince me I am pretty. I want to organize enough cool activities to garner sufficient praise for my creative energies. I want smart children to reflect my intelligence, and good cooking to demonstrate my domesticity. Instead, I can serve God, do His will, and trust that self-esteem will follow. I will compliment my husband and trust in his love for me. I will play games with my children because I want to have fun and treasure these fleeting moments where they want to play with me at all. I will give good food to my family because I love them and encourage learning because I sincerely believe it will make them happier. And then will come peace. And still reproofs will come. Today I will be better. I will pray. I will learn. I will love. And even if noone notices a thing, I will end the day reproved, rejoicing, and alive.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Run With Patience

". . and let us run with patience that race that is set before us."
Hebrews 12:1

It was my first 10K. My first race ever. I had decided to run the Cooper River Bridge race in Charleston, SC because my mom and I
love Charleston. Apparently I wasn't the only one. Turns out the Cooper River Bridge Run is one of the biggest 10K races in the country. So I show up in my nifty new socks to a crowd of about 20,000. Playing eager beaver, I jump to the front, right behind the Kenyan track team, ready-ish for what was coming. The gun sounded and we were off. Well everyone else was off, I was mostly being passed. Again. And again. It was depressing. In my struggle to keep up and save face I ended up running almost the entire thing. My nifty new socks were too thick and burned my feet. But, I finished a 10K and felt like the queen of the world. Until the next day when my lower body revolted and should I have been privy to any national secrets, anyone could have broken me by making me sit down and stand up twice within an hour.

I kept racing. And I've gotten faster, stronger, but most importantly---smarter. I've learned about training, tempo runs, ice packs, and carb-loading. And I've learned one very important thing about races: A little thing called pacing. Remember those Kenyans? Right behind them were the "amateurs" aiming for about a 5-6 min. mile pace. My pace at that point was probably about 12 minutes. I cringe to think how annoyed all those seasoned runners must have been, dodging the pudgy beginner who didn't know about lining up according to your pace. I've learned a lot since that first race about pacing. . . and only a little of it is about running.

I don't run with music. I run with my thoughts. I run with my problems. I find my rhythm and then I drum along, sorting through the puzzles in my brain. I don't run to win or even compete. I have never won any type of anything in any race I've ever run. And I doubt I ever will, unless I organize my own race and throw away any registrations in my age group. All my medals say "finisher" and I doubt they'll ever say anything else. But, yet I keep running. Running is my race and when I do it my way, I am better.

I trained for all of one week for my last half marathon. I was a bandit, asked by my friend to run for her because she hadn't trained at all. My running had been spotty at best, not having run more than 3 miles in several months at least. But, my curiosity got me. Could I do it? Had I gotten to a point where I could run a half marathon with a week of training? I decided to go for it. Still, I had learned a thing or two about my body; specifically about the knee part of my body, and I knew that if I pounded out 13 miles with no training, I would shatter my knees and set my running back for weeks. I humbly accepted that a run/walk plan would be the way to do it. I made my plan: 3 minutes run/1 minute walk. . . repeat. I knew that this would be very hard for me to do. I am obstinate about pain--somehow thinking I am a less of a person without it. And I hate, really hate, walking if anyone around me is running. But, I also wanted to do a half marathon and knew that this was the only way I was going to do it. So, I set my timer, took some advil, and ate some pasta.

It was a beautiful race day, and I was eager to see what my body could do. I told myself I could run the first 10 minutes, but after that I would enforce the 3:1 plan. It was hard. I got passed, and I got passed by a pregnant woman. But, cuing my inner monologue, I reminded myself that I had no idea how much she had trained, that the only body I knew was my own, and if I wanted to finish, I had to do it my way. And I did finish. I felt great. My legs felt sore, but strong, and my knees were very very proud of me. I had run my race, my way, at my pace.

If only I could live my life the way I ran that race. I would take it in chunks, recognizing that the only life I know and can control (kind of) is my own. We each have our own race to run, our own children to raise, our own goals to reach. I don't run to perform, but how often do I let my "performance" dictate what I do? I want to be a fun, kind, patient, creative mother. But, do I want that because I believe that will help my children now, or because that is how I want them to remember me? At times I am driven by what others will think of what I do/think/read/eat/say rather than just being. I lose trust in my own pace. I am faster today than I was when I first started running. And I plan on getting faster. But I am not getting faster to beat anyone. I am getting faster because I like getting faster. My pace is my own. If I throw out expectations, real and assumed, trusting that I am a good enough person to do things my own way, even if I never get another compliment, then I think I can find a peaceful rhythm that will get me to the end strong, maybe a little sore, but very very proud.

Happy Running.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What If Wednesday. . . . . .

What if a bandit came and disconnected my internet. Here is what my life would like like. . .

*peacefully void of checking my email/blog/facebook to see if anyone cares at all what I have to say about the world

*I might possibly have curtains on my children's windows because I chose to be creative rather than checking aforementioned sites. . . of course I'm not sure how I'd learn to do that if I didn't have the internet

*My house might be empty more because I'd find more ways to get out of it

*Stories written, edited, and submitted. . via post I guess. I write much more effectively when there isn't fun stuff to click on for distraction

*I might not have made broccoli soup, which is sitting. . uneaten in my fridge. http://www.allrecipes.com/ really let me down on that one.

But alas. . no bandit has come, and I don't think they will. And so here I sit, trying to find something wildly distracting on the internet to keep my mind clear of things I'm trying not to think about. It isn't working. So, I guess I'm going to have to be my own bandit. Signing off. (until tomorrow)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Computing My T.E.V.

The Canadians are losing their polar bears and they aren't going to take it anymore. Well some of them aren't anyway. Canada's Environment Department is on a mission to prove those big cuddly fellas stick around for awhile. Cute pictures don't do much in a budget crunch, you've got to prove they are good for more than a fuzzy rug. How do you do that? You determine its "Total Economic Value" (T.E.V.) Team member Mary Taylor spoke about the process, "The existence value -- what's the value of having this species now and in the future? We also look at the bequest value -- what's the value for future generations? So we're looking at a range of values, values even beyond those in the marketplace." A similar process put an elephant's value at $4,000. N0t sure how much he went for on Ebay though.

This idea got me thinking about my own T.E.V, and the T.E.V. of many mothers who daily feel undervalued, exhausted, and at times borderline pointless. Truth is, we wear lots of hats, and should we get paid for some of those gigs, our T.E.V. would be fairly impressive. Let's crunch some numbers:

Here are my proposed salaries*:
Teacher: $46,109
Clinical Nurse--Home care: $71,560
Housekeeper: $21,000 (There should be bonuses for every boy in the house with bad aim. . if you know what I mean)
Personal Chef: $45,000
Executive Personal Assistant: $51,000
Beautician: $21,000 (I'd get paid more, but I don't know how to french braid)

*salaries actually researched. . impressed??
......................................you get the idea.

The point is, were sheer numbers under consideration, I might be worth a great deal.

255,669 smackers to be precise.

Of course, that is not why I do what I do. And our society rarely looks at my T.E.V. this way. They have a hard time looking past the ponytail and three little ones I'm herding at Target. I certainly don't dress like someone worth almost $300,000. But, just like the polar bears, I have alot to offer. And I need to remember that. We all do. It isn't just the jobs we do now, every day, that matter and add up. It is what we are creating. I don't dust the shelves because I like the smell of pledge and shiny wood. I actually don't savor every opportunity to change a diaper, vacuum (again) or cook a dinner. I don't do this because I expect a paycheck at the end of the week. I do it because I expect a paycheck in the eternities. And I do it for the hugs. I want my children to feel safe and clean. I want them to learn about truth and work. And someday I hope they will grow to be faithful, kind, stalwart, creative adults. That is a serious payday.

I don't know how to remind myself of this value when I am feeling pent up, frustrated, and crazy. But I will try. I will coax myself away from the laundry pile and take a look at my kids playing together and say, "Yeah, this is worth it. This is a great future investment." And I will write myself a check for a free game of Candyland.

You and me, polar bears. . . we are like money in the bank.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We are so in a fight.

DearIt's not you. It's me.

Well, it's you.

Okay, maybe it is both of us.

Either way, we can't continue like this. I just don't like who I am when we are together. You don't really bring out the best in me, to be honest. A little time with you, and I go crazy. I get a little fixated on when we can be together again. Sure, I know you like that, but really I have to live my own life.

So, I think it is time we took a step back. I'm not saying this will be forever, but I am just a little tired of having you in my life. Things go so well at first, but we both know things get ugly when we spend too much time together. So, maybe after some time apart, we can get together once in awhile and hang out, but I'm kind of hoping that I can move on and accept life without you. You might be able to visit on birthdays or Christmas, but you tend to try to take over those days and really, don't take this the wrong way, but it is not all about you. So there.

I hope you don't take this too hard.



We're still good. For now. But don't get crazy on me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Days

In one day I heard two very different stories. First, a sister in law wrote of ending her day with precious gratitude that a runaway stroller with her baby inside had been providentially protected. Then, I saw an update from a college friend saying that she had gone in that morning to get her twenty month old baby out of his crib only to find that he had passed away during the night. That left me with an aching sadness and a few questions. Why was one protected and one taken? Both of these women are remarkable mothers who dote on their children. No one would argue that one mother deserved her child more than the other. But still, last night one mother tucked in all of her children, while the other tucked in only three. My heart breaks, but how is my faith holding up?

The only thing I can figure is that it is not what happens to us, but what is happening in us. We are not here to go through a checklist of really hard things until we all match up with the appropriate number of trials, goals, and accomplishments. God isn't about trying to make everything fair. He is about trying to make us like Him. And on that day, two mothers had very different paths in how to get There. One ended her day with a profound gratitude for the hand of heaven she felt protecting her family. The other began it with a searing pain that could only be contained with faith, prayer, and love. The next day, I imagine they both were one step closer to the women God knows they can be. I certainly was, just by knowing them.

Faith is a sticky thing. We cannot see, but we must trust. We ache with fear, but strive to believe. And why? Why do we believe? Why do we press forward amidst doubt, discouragement, debt, or despair? I believe that it is not only because what we believe about God, but what we believe about ourselves. We signed up for this mortal experience because we wanted to become something better. We wanted to become like our loving Father in Heaven. And it just isn't possible without some harrowing experiences that test our wings, our souls, and our faith. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "Jesus’ challenge shows that the conversion He required for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matt. 18:3) was far more than just being converted to testify to the truthfulness of the gospel. To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become." We must do and become if we truly desire to return to the presence of God and feel comfortable there. But that doing and becoming is intensely personal and the Lord is the Master Tailor. He customizes burdens to our shoulders and then strengthens our backs to bear them up. We cannot look at others and wonder, "Why them? Why me? Why not them? Why not me?" Or at least we cannot do that and expect to find enlightenment in the process. We are not God. We cannot know. But we can trust.

And what does all that trusting do for us? It shapes us. Take C.S. Lewis' words on prayer:
"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me." So it is with faith. My faith does not strengthen God's reality. He is not a fairy that grows weaker every time someone shouts to the heavens that they do not believe. I believe in God. I believe that He is. But that belief does not create God. . . it creates me.

Above all, I believe that God is love. A love I cannot comprehend. A love profound enough to send His Only Begotten Son to be sacrificed for the rest of his children, many of whom will spurn the gift with pride and disdain. A love pure enough to forgive again and again and again. A love wise enough to save one and take another, knowing which mother needs what to become what she needs to be. I can trust that kind of love. I hope.

I have all of my children. I have my husband. I have a body that moves and eyes that see. I do not know how I would respond if any of these things were taken. Still, I am being shaped in ways the Lord knows I need shaping. Death is not the only sorrow that takes its toll on our faith. For every Godlike attribute we cultivate, there is a growing experience that must come first. And everyone's list is completely different. We can try to compare lists, or we can thank the Lord for our own and trust that it was written with love and wisdom.

In one day I read about two very different days. Two mothers and two children. One God in Heaven carefully guiding them and all those who love them to become what they should be. The Lord's work and glory is to help us Become. Become women of faith, men of fortitude, and disciples of love. The path is bumpy, but the promises are sure. One day, one soul, one breath at a time, we trust, press forward, believe. . . and become.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Baby Steps to Success. . .

I got this in my inbox today:

Dear Morgen,

Congratulations! Your submission "Thinking Outside the Kitchen Cabinet" will post to our site on Monday, September 5th. The editors felt that this would be a wonderful addition to our other articles on The Power of Moms web-site. You will be able to locate your article under " Empowering Essays: Systems to Keep You Sane". Be sure to let your friends and family know so they can read your article, along with other great articles, from other great mom's just like you!

We want to thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to send in your submissions. I hope you continue to share your thoughts and stories with us.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Lisa Hawkins, Publication Manager

Mark your calendars! Maybe by September I'll have other publishing successes. . and I imagine a few rejections as well. I'll probably post those too, just to have something on record when I make it big. I need some proof of heartbreak to really sell my story for Oprah.

If you just can't wait until September, this essay is already here.