Monday, May 13, 2013

My Thoughts on Mother's Day

 I’d like to start by talking about some of my earliest and favorite memories of my mother.  I am the youngest of five.  I’m positive my mother saw such perfection in me she knew she had no need to have more.  Although, I think if you were to ask my mom, she would say God knew how stubborn and strong-willed I’d be that he decided she would have her hands full with just me, let alone my 4 older siblings, and gave her a break by letting me be the last.

My mom was a domestic Goddess in my eyes.  She could do all the traditional mother’s tasks.  She made me and my sisters new dresses every Christmas and Easter.  She’d make our Halloween costumes.  Sew beautiful formal gowns for high school dances.  She’d let us pick out themes for birthday parties and would come up with games, decorations, and party favors to match.  Dutifully, she taught us to work as she assigned us weekly chores, taught us to do yard work with our father, and put us to work snapping beans each harvest times as she got ready to can and preserve from our modest garden.  She embarrassed us with her dancing in the kitchen when our friends came over – a right of passage almost every mother shares.  I have a lot of memories of my mom.  Some not so pleasant when we disagreed and I wasn't the nicest of daughters, as growing teen girls can be.  But most of my memories make me grateful as I realize just how amazing of a mom God gave me.

And, what is it that makes my mom and other moms so amazing?  Yes, my mother could sew, cook, bake, preserve, and other homemaking tasks, but that is not what made her a great mom.  While those are worthy skills that can bless a home, they are not required to be an amazing mom.  What made her amazing was what she gave me that had no material value.  She gave me her time.  She helped me with my homework.  She would stay up late sewing our dresses or other projects so they would be done in time.  She sacrificed her own wants and needs to meet our own.  She left full carts sitting in the grocery stores and she picked us up in our screaming tantrums when we were little to take us straight home to teach us appropriate behavior.  She gave me pieces of herself.  My mother is amazing because she has a mother’s heart.

Julie Beck, First counselor in the Young Women General Presidency at the time, said,

What is a mother heart and how is one acquired? We learn about some of those qualities in the scriptures. To paraphrase Proverbs: “Who can find a … woman [with a mother heart]? for her price is far above rubies. … She … worketh willingly with her hands. … With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. … She stretcheth out her hand to the poor. … Strength and honour are her clothing. … She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness” (Prov. 31:10, 13, 16, 20, 25–27). A woman with a mother heart has a testimony of the restored gospel, and she teaches the principles of the gospel without equivocation. She is keeping sacred covenants made in holy temples. Her talents and skills are shared unselfishly. She gains as much education as her circumstances will allow, improving her mind and spirit with the desire to teach what she learns to the generations who follow her.
If she has children, she is a “goodly parent” (1 Ne. 1:1) who lives and teaches standards of behavior exactly in line with the teachings of living prophets. She teaches her “children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:28). Rather than listening to the voices and partial truths of the world, she knows that gospel standards are based on eternal, unchangeable truths. She believes that to be “primarily responsible for the nurture of [her] children” is a vital, dignified, and “sacred responsibilit[y]” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 1998, 24;Liahona, Nov. 1995, 102). To nurture and feed them physically is as much an honor as to nurture and feed them spiritually. She is “not weary in well-doing” and delights to serve her family, because she knows that “out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

The world doesn't always value the mother heart.  Satan knows the power and influence each mother heart has and does whatever he can to make a woman discouraged and feel that their life inside the home is worthless.  Elder Neil A. Anderson in the 2011 October General Conference said,

Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family. My daughters recently referred me to a blog written by a Christian mother (not of our faith) with five children. She commented: “[Growing] up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood. … Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get.” She then adds: “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”7

 Each woman, despite her life circumstance, has the capacity to be a wonderful mother or have a mother heart in her own way. Elder M. Russell Ballard said,

There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family….What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.

Whether a woman stay home full-time or prayerfully divides her time between work and home to help meet financial challenges is a decision between the Lord, the husband and the wife.  It is our responsibility to not judge and only give love and understanding.

There is another type of Mother heart that I would like to speak about today.  It is the Mother heart of a faithful woman without the Mother title.

Elder Neil A. Anderson continue his words from earlier saying,

In “the best of times [and] … the worst of times,”15 the true Saints of God, acting in faith, have never forgotten, dismissed, or neglected “God’s commandment … to multiply and replenish the earth.”16 We go forward in faith—realizing the decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord. We should not judge one another on this matter.

The bearing of children is a sensitive subject that can be very painful for righteous women who do not have the opportunity to marry and have a family. To you noble women, our Heavenly Father knows your prayers and desires. How grateful we are for your remarkable influence, including reaching out with loving arms to children who need your faith and strength.
The bearing of children can also be a heartbreaking subject for righteous couples who marry and find that they are unable to have the children they so anxiously anticipated or for a husband and wife who plan on having a large family but are blessed with a smaller family.
I’d like to share some words from Sister Ardeth Greene Kapp, the Young Women’s General President in the mid 1980’s from an article in the Ensign.

“When I was growing up,” Sister Kapp says, “I envisioned living in a small white house with a picket fence. I thought I would just take care of the flowers, be active in the Church, friendly with my neighbors—and have lots of children.” But as the years passed, no children came to their home, and their prayers about adoption were answered with a stupor of thought instead of the desired confirmation. She had to face the fact that the dream she cherished of raising children would not become a reality in this life.
The questions she asked herself were agonizing: “Weren’t we commanded to bear children?” “Aren’t children to bring us joy in our posterity?” “Why, when we are willing—even longing—for children, are we denied this blessing?”
 “It’s the soul-rending experiences that bring us to God,” Sister Kapp comments. “Trials lead you into a diligent search; they make you ask questions that only the Lord can answer. You have to turn to him. And one day the peace comes that compensates for all the yearning.
“Our trials also help us develop charity—that gift we most need when we serve others. I am reminded of Paul when he praised God ‘who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.’ (2 Cor. 1:4.)
“If we allow suffering to refine us, we are able to comfort others as we have been comforted. We can become an instrument in the hands of the Lord in spreading his peace.”
Although the Kapps never had the family of their own they longed for, they can say they have had children. Youth of all ages have flocked to their home. A drawer in the kitchen contains a constant supply of cookies. “And now,” Sister Kapp smiles, “after a quarter of a million prayers for children, I have responsibility for a quarter of a million young women. I never expected such results.”
Sister Kapp’s unique ability to care has helped her fulfill her desire to serve. “When I was young,” she says, “I thought the noblest thing in this life was to be a mother. I have since learned that the best mission in life is the one the Lord has prepared for me. So I have felt a real sense of responsibility to discover and fulfill my mission. And I found it in the scriptures. It is ‘to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously’; to ‘cleave unto [our Father],’ and to have my mind enlightened so that I can teach others in ways that will wake in them the things of the Spirit.” (SeeD&C 11:12–22.)

I have found Sister Kapp’s example to be true.  Xan and I have not been blessed with children at this time but that does not mean I do not have the ability to care for, nurture, and influence those around me.  I think of my 20 nieces and nephews I have babysat and watch grow up in front of me.  I have 3 adorable nursery children each Sunday to teach basic principles of the gospel.  Many of you share your babies and let me play with them, rock them to sleep, or find distraction when I get restless at church from my ADHD.  And I have 5 beautiful men who’s developmental disabilities make them children at heart.  I have been given a high privilege to be a part of their lives as I get them ready in the mornings, take them to doctor appointments, nurse them when ill, and learn the power of true unconditional love that only a Mother heart can know.

The last thing I wanted to touch on today may be a bit less traditional than most Mother’s Day talks.  The ways to honor those with children and our own mothers are countless and relayed over commercials, ads, and Google searches.  I’d like to discuss a few ways we can honor those with Mother hearts that might be struggling on this holiday due to infertility or an unmet desire to bear one’s own children at this time.  So, I did some research from others thoughts mixed with my own to create a list of a few things we can do to remain mindful of this silent struggle in our everyday conversations.

1) Never assume to know a persons situation about parenthood.  People deal with emotions differently and while some will eagerly give you all the details of where they are in their journey to parenthood, others keep it personal.  Some might be in the middle of a painful treatment, others might have experienced an early miscarriage.

2) While pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and births will and should be communal celebrations, be patient and understanding if someone isn't ready to celebrate with you.  They may be dealing with their own heartbreak and need time or space.  If you konw of a friend who is struggling with infertility, many find it helpful to tell them in private, through e-mail, or over the phone with something like, "I know this might be hard for you but I wanted to let you know we are expecting.  I understand if you need some time."

3) Don't be the one to bring it up first.   Let them share their journey on their own time.  If you know they are expecting results, let them call you when they are ready to share the news.

4) Try not to give advice unless it is sought.  Most couples facing infertility will be working with medical professionals who know the couple's unique needs.  Depending on the medical problem, some advice can be hurtful and not helpful.

5) And last, celebrate Mother's Day to celebrate the mothers in your own life but also the value and trasure of every woman striving to cultivate a Mother heart.

Covenant-keeping women with mother hearts know that whether motherhood comes early or late; whether they are blessed with a “quiver full” of children here in mortality or not; whether they are single, married, or left to carry the responsibility of parenthood alone—in holy temples they are “endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32), and with that endowment they received the promised blessings and are “persuaded of them, and embraced them” (Heb. 11:13).
Every girl and woman who makes and keeps sacred covenants can have a mother heart. There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities. How grateful I am to the Lord for trusting women with the divine mission of motherhood. Like Mother Eve I am “glad” (see Moses 5:11) to know these things. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. -- Julie Beck