January 31, 2011

the RIGHT way to live life.

home schooling
natural childbirth
eating healthier
being Mormon
being Christian
potty training kids
having 7 children
quitting Ford, bringing 4-almost 5 kids- back to school
declining two job offers
blood transfusions
having my nephew live with us for 6 months
having my mother live with us
accepting church callings
family traditions
teaching my kids

There are so many decisions we have to make in life.  Every day we are choosing how we will live, and how we will raise our family.  We choose based on our desires, the lessons we have learned, and the promptings that we receive.

I believe that this life is a time for us to prepare to meet God.  Its a time of testing, and a time of learning and growth.  Who am I?  I learn more about myself every day as I see what I choose.  When I was young and married, we were in a college church congregation with lots of other newly wed couples.  I LOVED seeing newly weds!!  I LOVED seeing who people choose to marry... people who were alike and people who seemed different.  I love getting to know my children... who they are, what ice cream they like, what books they read, what clothes they wear.  The ability to choose is one of our greatest gifts.

It is silly to look back at our choices with regret.  Obviously, since I believe we are constantly growing, there are things we would do over if we were living our life then, now.  Ellie wanted to wear her ballet costume every day when she was younger.  Now, thank goodness, she would not choose to wear her ballet costume to the grocery store.  (Most days.)  Would I want her to look back at the pictures of her with a ballet costume squished over her clothes and wish she had done things differently?  No!  Her years of ballet costume wearing has made her who she is today.  She was good then, and she is good now.  I LOVED her then, and I love who she is becoming. 

I am a much more patient and confident mother today then I was when my first four children were young.
I don't loose my temper when Lily dumps her cereal on the floor and I don't think my kids are bad or ruined when they aren't reverent in church.  I was very harsh with my first... and, he is OK.  In fact, he is great.  [Actually, I was a strict mother, then a very casual mother, and now I'm stricter again...  ah the journey.]  I used to pray and pray and pray that God would make me patient.  And, when I would loose my temper at nap time I would feel that He didn't answer my prayers.  Looking back, I see His hand in my life.  He did make me patient... I am a VERY patient person.  But, patience didn't come in ZAP transformation.  It came line upon line, day upon day, trial upon trial.  And today, I'm patient.  Tomorrow, I'll be more patient.  That's life.  I was a good mother then, and I am a good mother now.  Because of yesterday's mistakes, I have depth and experience today.  Yes, I am older and wiser and more experienced today than I was yesterday.  Hopefully, I will be more wise tomorrow. 

One thing that I have learned more than anything else is this...  there is not one RIGHT way.  There is not.  There is right and wrong.  There is TRUTH.  There are correct principles and standards that are guaranteed to make you life easier and happier.  But, there is not one RIGHT way. 

I graduated with a degree in Child Development.  I wrote papers and read studies and I knew the very best way to teach a child to sleep through the night, the best way to discipline children, the best way to potty train and get children to eat all their dinner.  I knew that I would home school and NEVER send my kindergartner to all day kindergarten and that I would breast feed and birth all my children naturally.  In my early years of marriage I felt birth control was wrong.  We prayed about it and got a very clear answer that we should not wait to have children... thus, anyone who was waiting to have children was WRONG.  God had told me RIGHT and thus everyone else was WRONG.  Right?  Wrong.

My first child was perfect.  (Because I knew just how to do it.)  We lived with my in-laws for a summer when he was younger and I came home one afternoon to find her in tears.  She said she had never seen such a well-behaved, obedient child.  She wondered if he was a "perfect child" that would die young.  Seriously, he was great.  Then God sent me more children, quickly.  I tried to parent THE RIGHT WAY, and they still ran into the street, said NO and scratched the cheeks of kids in nursery.  My first child lost his perfection with time... and God let me learn humility.  He taught me... there was not one RIGHT way to parent.  Each child was different and each child was actually sent to TEACH ME. 

When Jakob was 4, and Drew was 3 and Anna was 16 months old, and I was 8 months pregnant with Ellie, Anna fell into a campfire and severely burned the palms of both her hands.  My life became VERY difficult.  I was not only an overwhelmed young mother, I was a mother who the whole world could see, didn't protect her children.  I had too many, too quickly and I was drowning.  I begged God to carry me.  And, He did.  But, he held me while I endured much and learned much and became very dependant on Him.  The world saw my weakness... and, surprisingly, the world also saw my strength.  In my lowest moments, I was the strongest.  I could feel my growing pains, I had stretch marks, but I became.

As our family healed from Anna's burns, I realized I was very numb.  Post-traumatic stress disorder.  I began taking medication for depression and after moving to Lubbock began seeing a counselor regularly.  I didn't believe in depression.  I remember saying to my cousin-in-law, who is a therapist, "Anyone who laid on the couch all day would be depressed, just tell them to get up and wash their dishes and they'll feel better."  I was anti-medication and anti-therapy... until i felt true depression, took medication and was healed through reflection, prayer and therapy.  That was a journey I never thought I would take.  NEVER.  But, it is a journey that has made me stronger. 

As graduates from college, we built a beautiful home in Michigan.  It wasn't a starter home, it was beautiful.  We had always been blessed with money and peace.  When we left Ford to come back to school, we were certain that our home in Michigan would sell, that we would have enough savings to take us comfortable through our 3 year program, and that life would be well.  We were wrong.  We did not anticipate the crash of the Michigan housing market due to the decline of the auto industry.  We didn't anticipate our pipes freezing and bursting-- destroying our home.  Our homeowners insurance didn't cover the damage- because we hadn't switched to "unoccupied" insurance.  Financially, we hid a bottom that we NEVER thought possible.  We believed if you were "righteous" you would prosper.  We believed that people who struggled financially were people who didn't work hard or make wise choices.  Today, we have greater compassion.  We learned financial lessons we never thought we would learn.  And, we are grateful for our experience.

i just found this picture the other day, and i love it.  this is how i see myself.  a bit out of it, surrounded by kids!
These past few months,  I've been learning much about health.  I'm amazed at the power of my body to affect my mind, and the power of my mind to affect my body.  It's stunning.  I trust myself and my body more.  I'm different.  I've re-evaluated my past 6 pregnancies... with blood transfusions every 2 weeks, inductions and emergency c-sections.  I'm doing things different this time and I feel SO GOOD.  This is RIGHT.  For me, today.  One night I was thinking about my two emergency c-sections.  I thought, I really wish I had NOT gotten induced.  Maybe, if I had not gotten induced, Lily's cord wouldn't have prolapsed, and I wouldn't have had to have a c-section.  The Spirit whispered to my soul, "Jen, don't look backwards.  You listened then, just like you are listening now.  Maybe, you were inspired to get induced.  Maybe, if your water had broken on it's own you wouldn't have known that Lily was laying on her cord and she would have died before you got to the hospital.  You were listening then, and you are listening now." 

I had 5 children who I immunized with no problems.  I was not ignorant, I studied and learned, and I didn't feel any concern immunizing my children.  When it was time for Lily, my youngest, to be immunized, i felt SICK inside.  SICK.  I couldn't do it.  I told them I wanted to wait till she was older.  When she was one, my doctor REALLY wanted me to immunize.  I still felt sick about it, but allowed them to give her ONE shot.  That evening, Lily's whole arm broke out in open sores.  They didn't heal for 3 months.  My doctor said that had nothing to do with her immunization-- I don't care what she says.  I FELT uncomfortable immunizing her, I ignored my feelings, I was WRONG.  She hasn't received the rest of her shots.  I'm NOT against immunizations-- I think they are great and helpful and fine, for some kids.  But, not for Lily.

Sometimes, we start learning new things and we tend to generalize.  I don't believe there is one RIGHT way.  I don't believe that home schooling is WRONG because I know that sending my kids to school is RIGHT for me.  I don't believe that epidurals are WRONG, or immunizations are WRONG, or spanking is WRONG, or depression medication is WRONG, or having a small family is WRONG...  i don't believe that everyone should quit their job and go back to school to get a PhD. 
There is not one RIGHT way.

I'm pretty dang good at potty training.  But, I don't think there is one right way to potty train.  Each child is different...  each mother is different...  my way may not be your way, what is right for my child may not be right for your child.  Today, I don't have all the answers.  BUT, I have learned to HEAR and FEEL and KNOW what is right for me and my family.  I know the feeling that comes when I'm doing what is right.  I also know the sick feeling that comes when I'm not listening.

I hope that as you read my blog, or talk to me in person, you NEVER feel that I think you are WRONG for being different from me.  I change.  Life is customized.  Our trials, our children, our ups and downs, I believe much of what we experience in life is exactly what we need to learn and grow. 

In our church, we believe in a prophet- just like in the Bible.  Sister Hinckley, she was the wife of our last prophet, was asked by her daughter-in-law to give her some parenting advice.  Sister Hinckley said something like, "Oh, honey, I don't have anything to say.  They are all so different.  Ask God, He knows your child better than I do."  (Yes, this is my interpretation of a story I read, not a direct quote.)  She was a prophet's wife... and she was WISE.  Wise enough to know that there is not one RIGHT way.

Yes, we still need to learn.  Every day I am learning.  Every day.  I believe that God inspires me at certain times to learn about certain things.  With my past 6 pregnancies, I wasn't prompted to read Ina May Gaskin.  This time, I am drawn to natural child birth like a kid to candy.  I'm eating more green food.  I LOVE my kids school.  I'm moving to Oregon.  I'm having my 7th baby.  You don't have to be like me for me to respect you.  I hope that EVERYONE is wise enough to know that there is NOT one right way.  Just because people don't choose what you choose it doesn't mean they are ignorant... it might mean they are NOT SUPPOSED to do what you do. 

I love people who are willing to do what they FEEL is right, even if it is different or weird or not what they had planned.  It isn't long on life's journey before you learn not to judge other people for being different.  With experience you realize that what you feel good about doing today, you might not feel good about doing tomorrow.  Life is good.  I LOVE the journey.  And today, I have no regrets about my yesterdays.


Cheryl said...

Beautiful. Thank you!

Kerri said...

Love this.

The Tremendous Thomas Family said...

What can I say!? Once again you blogged just for me:...thank you Jen I appreciate your words, they help me think, ponder and most of all help me to know that I am ok,not wierd but normal!!! By the way I love what you have going on in your life right now we would love to have a big family and we want to end up in Oregon someday so maybe we will cross paths again!

Nate said...

Jen! This is Becky (Steve Warner's little sis). This post was BEAUTIFUL!! Thank you so much! I have 3 little ones right now, and they run me into the ground! Thank you for your example to me.

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