We have it wrong. We think our job is big when really, it's small. I mean, our "job" is big, but it is accomplished in small ways. This is both the key to happiness in motherhood, and also the hardest part of motherhood.
Beautiful tapestries are the result of hundreds of tiny stitches with a messy underside. We make a big difference in the world by doing small and simple stitches at home and in our community.
6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means (Book of Mormon, Alma, Alma 37)
THIS principle is the key to mental health, the key to successful homemaking and parenting, the key to magnifying our role as women, the key to interior design, and one of the key teachings of Jesus Christ. This principle is the opposite of what the world teaches and frankly it is the opposite of what we sometimes hear from our pulpits and our Pinterest.
Read 2 Kings 5! The story of Naaman is the story of motherhood. We are made clean as we wash and wash and wash.
13...if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
(Old Testament, 2 Kings, 2 Kings 5)
I have found that often in motherhood, my ability to see 'the big picture' leaves me depressed, overwhelmed, defensive, and paralyzed. In contrast, performing simple tasks with singleness of heart brings me unexpected peace and joy.
Sometimes the enormous weight that I carry as I envision my responsibility to raise up a child in the way he should go, make a home, comfort the weary, mourn with those that mourn, strengthen the feeble knees, feed the hungry, share the gospel, save the dead, perfect the Saints, prepare for the end of the world, feast upon the word of God, keep a record of my dealings, magnify my calling, and ultimately "be ye therefore perfect", can feel a little heavy.
Satan gets us to stop or to run ourselves into a dizzy by distracting us from the big picture with the big picture.
I have analyzed mental health for years. I feel in the mentally fatigued a belief that if they worked harder, learned more, found the right doctor or the right medication, talked to the right counselor, read more, journaled more, analyzed and understood more, THEN they would heal or have the ability to heal others.
We sometimes think everyone else is doing more and we try so hard we push ourselves too far. I wonder if we are spinning our wheels, creating more problems for ourselves.
In truth, I have found that the healthiest amoung us DO LESS. They carry with them a sense that their offering is enough.
I have found that nobody can do all things, but we all can do one thing.
Have you ever loved someone SO much that when their birthday or wedding or graduation came you really wanted to give them a great gift? Because I love them SO much, I want to give hundreds of dollars, that I can't afford, SO I DO NOTHING! Ugh! We are just now (through 'Go Fund Me' accounts) remembering the beauty of how a whole community each giving a small part leads to a big part.
How do you handle stress? Here's a secret. When you're overwhelmed, you have two choices. You can go UP or DOWN.
When I was younger, I went up. Stress would make me yell, rush around working, blame or criticize others. Going up is anxiety. I am SO busy. Life is SO hard. I JUST CAN'T DO IT ALL! We let our brains become a Supermart instead of a local Farmstand. Stop that. We don't have to do it all. We just have to do one thing.
Anxiety is almost the opposite of a child's brain. Trust me. If you are late, try whispering to your children instead of yelling. It really, really works.
I have learned to go down with stress. (Not too far down or you sleep all day in a paralyzed depression- but a very real slowing and focusing of effort.)
Literally, bending down to look into a child's eye and whispering one simple request- it works. I kneel to pray. I stop, and find myself. I whisper in a deep voice instead of yell in a high, yappy voice. (Watch the Dog Whisperer and you will see what I'm talking about.) The stress of our soul affects the stress of our home. Do you know that people vote for politicians with deeper, slower voices?
The image of Mary and Martha echoes through my mind as I try to respond to chaos around me by becoming the eye of the storm. We are all Martha sometimes, so tired because we serve that we spin up and become a tad contentious.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (New Testament, Luke, Luke 10)
There it is-- the key to happiness is a shift in perspective. When we feel overwhelmed with MANY THINGS, we can find peace in doing ONE THING. We will never, ever be able to accomplish the big picture-- but we can do a good PART. We don't need to plow the whole field-- we just need to plow this one spot, the spot that an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wise, all-powerful Father has guided us to. This place, this thing is needful.
In the story of Mary and Martha we can see a physical going down, to transition from Martha worry to Mary at the Savior's feet. Isn't Martha always looming above, just pausing in her rush, with an apron on and a bowl in her hand. Mary is sitting, regrouping, present. Let us be ONE with Christ, let us find that peace AS we are in the midst of dinner preparations.
One of the best parts of this scripture is the permission that the Savior gives to stop worrying about the big picture- because only ONE THING is needful.
This really, really, really is the key.
Stop trying to end world hunger and start by feeding the next hungry person you see.
Stop worrying about your child's future and just connect- just love your child for one moment. Just teach your child one thing. Only one thing is needful.
Stop trying to clean your house, and just clean ONE THING. How do you clean a house that is absolutely overwhelming? One spot at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
You do not need a system or a plan or a large block of time. You don't need to get distracted online reading 1,000 stories about how other people do it. Just clean one thing and let yourself delight in what you have done! Do not let Satan rob us of the joy that comes from doing good works by keeping us focused on the black hole of things we didn't do.
I never have enough knowledge or time to plant a garden. I often feel an overwhelming need to learn more about preparing my soil, planning how and when I should plant each seed, what heirloom seed I should plant, etc.. I feel paralyzed by gardeners I see who have compost piles and beautiful soil and who somehow "know how to do it."
One day I looked at my garden spot and saw something-- WEEDS. I realized that weeds could grow just fine in my non-ideal dirt. Weeds seemed to be flourishing in the garden preparations that I had felt were inadequate for vegetables. And, I got mad. I finally said to myself- I'm just going to plant the dumb seeds! I don't care if I plant them wrong-- 100% of the seeds I don't plant will never grow.
I've planted my garden in corners, 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Maybe nothing will grow, but darn it, if weeds can grow without a horticulture PhD than how hard can it be to grow something edible in the same spot? Just plant the dumb seed.
Can I tell you something? Nobody can pull all the weeds. Nobody raises children without problems. Nobody has the perfect way to do things. People might look good on the outside, but underneath we all have problems, all of the time. If you think you've got life figured out-- just wait a few weeks.
The purpose of life is to ride the waves, NOT to find the lake life where we can float forever. When I taught my kids to roller skate, I taught them that falling was good! It meant they were trying and going fast. Falling meant they were learning!
We are SO afraid of feeling inadequate when feeling inadequate is EXACTLY what God wants us to feel. We ARE nothing. We can't do it. We can't do all things or be all things- but we can do ONE thing. God needs us to surrender the big picture to Him so that we can work well the small part He needs us to play.
God knew that I needed 8 children to learn this lesson. Something amazing happens as you surrender your life's "big picture" to God. He makes so much more of your life than you ever could have. He places opportunities right in your path.
As a society we spend WAY too much time talking about our problems and WAY too little time solving problems. We feel that we need to start a non-profit company everytime we see a need. We don't. Maybe the time, effort, and talent we place trying to create a system to fix the problems IS part of the problem.
How dumb is it that sometimes my goal to read scripture everyday is thwarted because I can't decide what to read? Or, a successful pattern of study is interrupted because I hear another "better" way? Dumb.
Sometimes the only way to remove a beam from our own eye is by chipping it away at it and removing splinter by splinter. We are all rough stones rolling-- as we roll, we are becoming smooth.
Wash and wash and wash and wash and wash and wash and wash and be healed.
We carry within our brains the mirage of what happily ever after is supposed to look like. We become fixated on great and spacious concepts of true love, good families, strong marriages, ideal children and we miss the truth that we are ALL in this together. You have crap, I have crap, crap is part of the plan. Happily ever after is A LOT of work. We will NEVER escape the need to do ONE MORE THING. So, let's just enjoy the thing we are doing today.
We cannot teach a child some great thing in one amazing well-planned lecture. We can't. We have to teach over and over and over again. By small and simple means are great things brought to pass.
We don't fall in love at first sight. We choose to see each other with love over and over again. Small acts of love CREATE great bonds of love.
It isn't just Satan that can bind us to him with a flaxen chord-- we can use a flaxen chord also!
yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, 2 Nephi 26)
If you want your children bound to you and to God with strong cords forever, try leading them daily with flaxen chords of love.
If there is one lesson I have learned it is this-- by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
You are doing a great work when you do one small thing.
Stop letting Satan deceive and overwhelm you with the big picture. Only ONE THING is needful.
How do you find that needful thing?
You take time in the morning to pray and read the word of God.
Don't feast, just nibble. Just desire, just remember, and He will provide the feast. Take a small sip and He will make this a well inside your soul. Your part is to eat a tiny piece of His bread and His part is to make that small part FILL you.
In your quiet moment at His feet- write down on any scratch piece of paper you can find the one or two things He whispers for you to do. Sometimes it's hard to hear one thing and you write down 20. Go back and put a star on one, or ask yourself the question-- what is the next 'right' thing for me to do?
You might have a hard time planning your day because you might not know yet what God has planned for your day. But you will know it as you walk forward.
Just get up and do something, anything. Pick one of 1000 good things to do.
As you are doing, you might feel a gentle pull. Your child might cry and you will know this moment, my one needful thing is that one child. You might get a phone call. You might see a part of your home that needs your attention. Just do something and trust if you're not headed in the right direction, He'll guide you back.
God will guide you, He is guiding you. He is making you to lie down in green pastures. Trust HIM. He is the shepherd. Trust that He is leading you. If you find yourself on the side of a cliff, it doesn't necessarily mean you have done something wrong. You're a sheep, sheep are not supposed to know everything that the shepherd knows. Just look for His staff and His rod. Trust Him to guide you because He will. He is.
I have learned SO much from dandelions. You see, I believe that after Adam and Eve were cast out from the Garden of Eden, a loving Father in Heaven cursed the land with weeds and thorns "for their sake." I believe that Adam and Eve were created for a life outside of the Garden of Eden. They were created to have children, work hard, and learn lessons by experience.
So, as I'm pulling weeds in my life, I am VERY aware that nothing I can do will really ever get rid of the weeds. God sent the weeds and only God will be able to take them away.
So, why do I pull weeds? Why do I try? It is simple-- he wants me to pull because I am strengthened as I work.
HE is the gardener, HE has a master plan, HE has set me in this spot in His vineyard and He does NOT need me to run around stressing that I have too much to do! He just wants me to pull one weed, comfort one person, desire goodness, feed one person, plant one seed, and as I'm taking tiny steps forward, He asks me to remember that HE is the gardener.
I'm sorry if you have one easy child, one million dollars, a house keeper, perfect health, a perfect body, a perfect husband, and a rock-solid testimony. I'm sorry if you have a To Do List that never exceeds your capacity to do or if you are so extremely capable that you can plan ahead and live your plan. I'm sorry if your kids never break their arm, get a cavity, or burn because you forgot sunblock, again. Children who never get a sunburn never feel the soothing relief of Aloe Vera.
I'm sorry that some people have a life that they can handle.
I'm sorry about that because I know this means you are missing the sweetest and greatest of all life's gifts.
Only in my incapacity have I felt His capacity. Only in my own yearning have I felt His comfort.
Nothing compares to the safety and peace that you can feel encircled in the love and grace of our Eternal Father in Heaven. I wander, and He rescues me. I know He loves me because He finds me in the thistles. He runs to me when I'm afar off and He kills the fatted calf when I do ONE THING. I am enough because I am His.
Today I'm going to trust HIM with the big picture and the master plan. I'm going to be a servant and let Him be the master.
I can serve.
I can clean.
I can love.
The Lord is my shepherd.
The Lord is their shepherd.
I CAN do my small, good part.
I know it.
(I also know that my blogs are WAY too long, and I'm ok with that. Ha.)
Life is so good.