a friend once asked me, "How can you be everything to a large family that you would be to a smaller family?"
She had just given birth to her third child and wondered if she would be able to have another.
(Side note- she is currently expecting her fourth.)
I told her what I often tell people-- You can't.
You give everything you have to loving one child, and you give everything you have to loving seven.
Do the math-- you can not do for seven what you could do for one.
You can't do it, but God can.
God has a way of loving everyone equally-- of knowing exactly what we need and having the ability to give infinitely.
I learned early on in my parenting that if I learned to LISTEN, He would tell me what I needed to do, when I needed to do it.
The only way that I can meet the needs of my children is to ask God what those needs are and act when He whispers.
I believe it is ESSENTIAL for every mother to gain a firm testimony of those two principles
1- You will NEVER be enough.
2- God loves your child more than you do, and He is enough.
This understanding will help alleviate MUCH mother guilt and anxiety-- and also will help you remember to LISTEN and HEAR God teaching you how to love and nurture.
This past Sunday, we had a discussion at church about being better missionaries. As my friend was teaching HOW to do this I kept thinking-- this is EXACTLY how I parent, how I served with the youth, how I was the PTA president, how I try to be a good sister and daughter and friend and even how I'm an attentive wife.
Want to know what I do?
It's not magical...
Once a week, I ponder and pray and write down the thoughts that come into my mind.
Usually Monday morning, sometimes Sunday night...
I have a little notebook- that I write my constant To Do list in.
I start with my role as
and I think... what do my kids need from me this week.
Usually I have one child that stands out in my mind. Usually, that child has been driving me crazy a bit more than the others. Sometimes, that child is just a bit more un-noticed.
Children SHOW YOU when they NEED you.
(I remember my mom telling me about an Oprah show she saw once. It was a mother of a large family and Oprah asked her how she did it. This wise mother replied, "You love the one the most that needs you the most." Yup! That's it.)
So, usually one child stands out in my mind, and I think about them for a little while.
Drew has been quiet lately. He's done a great job getting his chores done and goes to bed easily, but he doesn't seem attached to me.
I ponder- What can I do for him this week to show him that I notice him and that I love him.
I think of a few ideas- I could surprise him with lunch at school. I could be sure to hug and kiss him each night before he goes to bed. I could buy him a candy bar and leave it with a note on his pillow. I could take him out to ice cream one afternoon- just me and him.
I pick ONE thing and write it down on my list.
And, I always try to tell my husband. I've been thinking about Drew lately. He's so good that sometimes he slips through the cracks. Let's try to notice and thank him this week. What can you do for Drew this week?
It's important to tell your husband the details you feel about your kids-- because they don't often think about those things on their own. AND, because then they will understand why you want to bring that child with you to the store when it's bedtime. AND, they won't complain when you come home with dairy queen wrappers.
These little things are my FAVORITE mother moments.
They don't take a lot of time or money, but they do take EFFORT and INTENTION.
Mothering moments are usually never URGENT, but they are ESSENTIAL.
I believe that if we take the time to ponder, God will show us WHO needs us and WHAT we can do to love them.
For me, it's usually one child a week... or one group of children (big boys, big girls, little girls). Sometimes it's ok to do something intentional with more than one child. Sometimes it is essential to spend time alone with one child. Sometimes I feel prompted to teach my kids a certain lesson, to initiate a change to our family routine, to focus on family prayer or scripture study... most of the time I feel a quiet whisper to just connect with a child. To listen more, to touch more, to love more.
I do the same process with the other categories in my life.
what can I do to love my husband more this week?
-cook better dinners, pray for greater love and empathy, go out to lunch with him, cuddle more, talk kinder, smile when he comes home (instead of complaining), etc., etc.
God tells me LITTLE things. One little thing that I can focus on that week... and I feel my relationships improving as I act on each little thing.
I often pray about my extended family, my neighbors, my friends. It is natural for me to give them space in my thoughts and my prayers... I often ask God if there is anyone that I know that needs me. I am often prompted to call someone... and that is a small thing I can do to show them that I care. When I'm NOT pregnant, and more into entertaining, we would invite a family over to dinner most Friday nights. We would pray about who we should invite over and then call them. It REALLY doesn't make too big of a difference if you invite over ONE family or THREE families-- so we would chunk our friends. Even doing the cross over- friends from school and friends from church. Some of my FAVORITE memories come from these Friday nights. And, for sure, my dearest friendships were formed because I felt prompted to reach out.
[Note-- Sometimes I find myself chunking... I am pretty good at bringing dinner to someone from church who has had a baby, or is sick, or had surgery. But, for some reason, it isn't natural for me to bring a dinner to a neighbor who is needy. DUH. Service is service. And, I need to be more careful about crossing my usual boundaries. I can call a PTA friend when I'm cranky just like I can call my sister-in-law. I've found that being consciously aware of these unconscious boundaries has helped me to tear them down and be more consistently who I am. At home, at school, at play...]
I have often served in leadership positions while having babies and lots of young children. I'm NOT perfectly organized or capable. There are MANY things that I leave undone and I often rely heavily on my presidency or board to fill in the cracks that I am unaware of. However, I feel PEACE in my service. Because I am always thinking "What do I need to do this week to serve better?"
When I was the Young Women President at church, I would begin to feel a great burden of responsibility for these sweet, teenage girls that were under my stewardship. I remember MANY prayers-- "God, please tell me what I can do for the girl who needs me." And, I usually follow up my prayer with, "And, if I don't hear it the first time, please tell me again and again and again until I HEAR your prompting." Hah! I'm not sure it works that way, but it always made me feel better-- I knew that God knew I was WILLING to hear, even if I sometimes missed Him.
So, in conclusion... I guess I would just say-- we each have MANY things we could do each day.
We can't do everything.
That is part of the PLAN.
We aren't supposed to be able to do everything- God wants to see what our priorities are.
I find great peace in knowing that at least once a week, I ask Him. And, I listen. And, each morning before I rise I think of those things and I pick one act of love to focus on.
Laundry, dishes, schoolwork, dinner, appointments, practices, phone calls, these things just happen.
Loving, nurturing, listening, building relationships, these things take effort and intention.
I can't do it all.
And God, He's pretty good at telling me what I should focus on next.
Together, we can love many.
I believe that God and I together are better than just me alone- even if I only had one child.
Listening and then Acting... that is the key.
Just love the one that needs you the most.
Honestly, you do this ALL THE TIME. It's just habit. I bet you are so good at listening to those mothering whispers that you don't even think about it... until someone at church teaches a lesson (or you read a blog) and you think-- yup that is what I do.
When was the last time you had that feeling-- to stop and just take a moment to mother?
Valerie shared a moment here-- i loved it.
Feel free to share your moment with me...
Honestly, I think just RECOGNIZING that God has prompted you and you listened opens the door for Him to speak more.
I'm not very good and very many things-- but I'm pretty good at listening. And this has SAVED me and my family.
Here is a GREAT talk about women receiving revelation... love it! (This talk was given by Julie Beck, she is the president of the women's organization in the Mormon church... she is strong and confidant and AMAZING.)