Monday, November 21, 2011


In college I was an English major. It took me eight years to graduate from BYU with my BA (and a music minor) as we moved 6 times and had three children during that same time period. I did Independent Study, night school and online courses to be able to finish up while trying to be a mom too. I got quite efficient at writing entire essays during two-hour nap times.

My favorite online class was a 400 level Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy course focusing on the works of Tolkein and CS Lewis where I first read The Lord of the Rings. I never could have pulled it off without the support of my sweet mother who babysat for a couple of on-campus classes my last semester. After a long time and lots of struggle, graduation day was truly one of the most meaningful and happiest days of my life.

As you can imagine, I have quite a few poetry books laying around the house. These vestiges linger on dusty bookshelves and haunt me. I NEVER read them. I merely move them several times a year (see earlier post about my chronic furniture moving habits). But that is not to say that I don't love poetry. I do! It's just low on my priority list these days. Which is sad, because I used to really love poetry. But that was back when I had the luxury of being forlorn and winsome (I'm fairly certain Emily Dickinson never stayed up all night nursing twins followed by a full day of laundry and dishes).

Back then I preferred epic poetry. But these days, I think I'd be into Cowboy Poetry, "Everyman" Poetry, Poetry for the Masses. Think Anne of Green Gables turns Unsinkable Molly Brown (it's purely coincidental that they're both redheads).

Recently, my 17-year-old daughter needed a poem to memorize for her AP Literature class. I began fumbling through random books to help her. Clearly we were not on the same "page." She was going for deep meaning, hidden agendas, or at the very least, humor. I, on the other hand, kept stopping for simple, short, unpretentious.

She finally chose a great one that was just right for her. I wan't much help as I sat in the corner, devouring poetry for the first time in epochs.

One little gem unexpectedly stirred my heart. You know that feeling you feel when you can't describe in words how you feel? I felt that.

Here is the back story: We have nine children and we have no spare money. Ever. The End. However, sadly, I really love beautiful things. I'm not that crafty and I'm NOT a good shopper so I can't find things at DI and turn them into shabby chic perfection like my sisters. I hate savvy shopping and give up early if I'm ever forced to go.

However, for the last several years we have lived very frugally. We bought an older, smaller home and have adhered to a strict budget. This has been tough for me. Although we've been amazingly blessed in any time of need, it has felt sparse and uncomfortable. Life has been a little dismal, a little gray. Another reason for gloom is that my wonderful husband has been at work both night and day for the last two years trying to finish up his dissertation. We've been doing "tag team" parenting as we've run to and fro chasing everyone and every event and filling every responsibility we have. It's been exhausting, hard and lonely.

You should also know that I love music. Next to God and family, music is my life. Certainly it is my greatest passion and brings the most joy and color into my world. I especially love hearing my children or husband play piano while I work in various spots around the house. Even the bleakest day is made better when I hear that piano.

Not long ago, something in me kind of "snapped." I guess I officially got tired of all the drabness and chaos in my life. I decided to do SOMETHING about it, despite my lack of resources.

I admit that I went outside our budget and purchased some items that just make me happy. Like a trampoline and sheet music and coat hooks and storage bins and pretty baskets and matching kitchen rags and new bath towels and house paint and..... you get the picture. I suddenly feel very happy around the house! Things are brighter, cheerier, more organized, more musical! And my sweet husband hung up all the pretty coat hooks and I love him even more.

BUT, I was feeling kind of guilty about spending that money. They weren't exactly "necessary" purchases. Just little somethings to make life less miserable. Still, it wasn't as if we had suddenly come into inheritance money!

But then, that morning, I read the following poem by Robert Frost:

The Investment

Over back where they speak of life as "staying"
("You couldn't call it living, for it ain't")
There was an old, old house renewed with paint,
And in it a piano loudly playing.

Out in the ploughed ground in the cold a digger,
Among the unearthed potatoes standing still,
Was counting winter dinners, one a hill,
With half an ear to the piano's vigor.

All that piano and new paint back there,
Was it some money suddenly come into?
Or some extravagance young love had been to?
Or old love on an impulse not to care --

Not to sink under being man and wife,
But to get some color and music out of life?

Perhaps, even with my historical background, it is impossible to make you understand how I felt reading this sweet little verse. It was as if I were truly understood by the universe. And if not by the ENTIRE universe, then at least by one man (Frost). And even though he's dead, somehow I felt as if he were a kindred spirit. It seemed that everything was suddenly put into perspective for me. I knew that he knew why I bought those things. And that, when you're in your 40's, and you're the parents of nine children, it is vitally important "not to sink under being man and wife, but get some color and music out of life."

Truly the best "investment" we can make is in our relationships. All of my frivolous purchases were for the joy and betterment of my family. I am happier, the kids are happier, and my marriage is sweeter as we've enjoyed some color and music together.

Oh, while reading poetry, I burned the waffles I was making for breakfast! I added the picture so you could get the idea. :) No time for poetry? Make some time! And bring a little color and music into your life!

"Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart."

D&C 59:18

P.S. John recently mailed off his completed dissertation! Only the final revisions remain! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

None to Spare

Yesterday I heard the sad news that a sweet family friend had lost her unborn baby. Not long ago she had heard his heartbeat. This Friday they were going to have the special ultrasound to find out the gender. This was her second pregnancy, the first having ended in miscarriage.

Although her precious baby was deceased, she still had to endure labor and delivery. Afterwords she was allowed, with her husband, to spend some sacred, quiet moments with her little son.

I can't even imagine her pain, her anguish. I won't even try. All I can offer is the emptiness I felt after a miscarriage of my own.

In addition to whispering silent prayers for them yesterday, I couldn't help also reflecting on the miracle of conception and birth.

There is a sign I see in neighborhoods sometimes and its message often comes to my mind when in the "throes of parenthood." It's meant to remind drivers to be cautious and states: "WE HAVE MANY CHILDREN, BUT NONE TO SPARE."

Even though I have been blessed with nine healthy, beautiful children, I still have none to spare. I couldn't imagine my life without them. Each one has shaped my life. Each one brings such joy, such heartache, such love to our family. It is truly overwhelming to see them becoming people. To witness that process and to have a hand in it is sacred, divine.

I am feeling so grateful today to be a parent. I don't know why I was blessed so abundantly, but since I believe in a loving, deliberate Heavenly Father, I imagine it has something to do with what I needed to learn here on earth. Apparently I needed to learn a lot!

It seems to me, just anecdotally, that all the finest people/parents I know seem to have trouble bringing children into this world. To me they seem to already have such wisdom, such grace. They seem to be lightyears ahead of me in the general "cosmic understanding" that comes with a lifetime of parenting. Not that this softens the blow of such loss, but I do feel that they are immensely trusted and that their unspeakable suffering is understood by an all knowing Savior.

This experience has reminded me that on my tough days, when it seems too hard or too unfair to be the mother of nine independent, creative, intelligent, passionate souls, I need to remember the suffering of my friends. I will try to savor the trials of parenting. I will try to glean what I am to learn and vow to be better for it. And after the 20th load of laundry each week, I will remember that even with a cornucopia of children, I still have "none to spare."

My children know about my miscarriage, even though it happened before any of them were born. I wasn't very far into the pregnancy, but it still felt like the loss of a soul to me. We have talked about it as a family. The children consider that little lost one a part of us somehow. I don't really know how it will all work out in the eternal scheme of things, but I do believe that my friend will see her precious little boy someday in a place where physical death can never separate them again.

Are not two asparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

But the very ahairs of your head are all numbered.

Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more avalue than manybsparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of the Lord."
D & C 18:10

Friday, October 7, 2011

Red Light, Green Light

(In honor of Mother's Day, and my daughter Michealah, who just left on her mission this week, I am reposting this.  It is about what she taught me one day)

Anyone with kids and a minivan knows how torturous red lights can be. Generally speaking, if you are in your van during the hours of 8 am to 7 pm (sometimes later!) you are likely the "taxi driver" and likely late for something.

I have been known to pray for lights to change when particularly strapped for time. My children get into the action by chanting "green, green, green, green!" as we approach each intersection.

This is not to say that I speed, exactly. Although I have "pushed the limit" in the past, I try not to do so anymore. Still, I often wish I could drive with no pesky pauses!

My tendency to despise interruption has been tested repeatedly as a parent. Any mother knows that it is nearly impossible to do anything from reading to visiting the restroom without a little friend or helper appearing. Forget trying to paint something.

Recently, however, I have begun to appreciate the "red lights" in my life. Let me explain.

I first pondered this while nursing a baby. I am ashamed to say that in the beginning, I was frustrated at having to sit down and do nothing else but feed the baby. Some women are blessed to be able to read, etc. while nursing, but I am not physically capable of doing so. Let's just say that my situation requires two hands and total attention. At first I felt annoyed. However, I gradually learned to love and then to anticipate my alone time with each child. We shared quiet moments of gazing at one another. It was as if the whole world stopped spinning for just that sweet time. Of course, it never lasted long as the toddlers always found just the right contraband activity while mom was occupied. But I wouldn't trade that time. I learned the value of a "red light."

Generally speaking, moms are multi-taskers (I help with homework while cooking, I mediate fights while scrubbing toilets). However, when it comes to really meaningful stuff, I have to be focused.

So, last week my oldest daughter, a thoughtful, poetic girl, told me she needed a monologue for her advanced drama class audition. I threw out some ideas that I thought would fit her personality, she googled them. When she found one she liked, she asked me to come watch it with her. I was running around, making dinner, driving people here and there, putting out fires, as is my daily routine. I avoided watching it for a long time, but finally, with rag in hand, STOPPED and watched it (I didn't even sit down, but at least I stood still).

The one she chose was "Emily" from Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Those of you who are familiar are likely nodding just now. I had forgotten the full message, I just remembered that my daughter reminded me of Emily in some way. As I took the time to really watch it (a great performance by Penelope Ann Miller from 1989), I felt haunted. As if Emily could see right through me. A busy fake. But even more, I felt exposed to my beautiful daughter. She knows me better than anyone I think. One of her spiritual gifts is discernment. She can read people, people like me.

There I was, standing with dripping rag in hand, my eyes unwittingly filled with tears. I felt frozen as if I couldn't go back to where I had been before the "red light." I couldn't just "get back to work" because it suddenly seemed so hypocritical or even pointless.

Still, someone had to make dinner. Eleven people ain't gonna feed themselves every day. But I learned something. I realized that sometimes, gazing into each other's eyes really is important. Sometimes those pesky red lights are very, very special. Maybe one day, we'll come to realize that the "red light" moments in our life are actually the ONLY thing that really matters. It is during those pauses in our general pursuit that we find ourselves really "living," perhaps because when we pause, we are actually "loving."

About four years ago I had just had baby number eight. I was still in the newborn stage (baby was 4 weeks old) and I had no desire to go out anywhere much. My wonderful, spontaneous husband came home from work one day and announced that we were going camping. All of us. Even me and the newborn. Hmmm. Talk about a "red light." I couldn't imagine anything more time consuming, difficult and crazy with a baby. However, he had been to southern Utah with his work and wanted to share the beauty of that place with us. I really really really didn't want to go. Camping in tents, outside with a nursing newborn did not sound appealing. In any any way. He assured me that he would take care of all the food. This was the ONLY reason I agreed.

I watched as he single-handedly bought, prepared and packed all the gear and food. We loaded everyone up and headed south.

I don't need to go into any more detail, but let me just say that that experience has proven to be the single most memorable/successful family trip we've ever had. For years afterwords it was all the little children talked about. They loved it, they adored it. They drew pictures of us in the "desert" and shared it with teachers, friends, strangers. When asked about favorite destinations, they never say "Disneyland, New York, Washington D. C., Mexico" (the other places we've been), instead they always answer, "camping in the desert!"

As I pondered this lesson this week, I was reminded that so often in the gospel there are ironies. When we "lose" ourself, we "find" ourself, the "greatest" is the "least," etc. I have realized that often what I perceive to be "red lights" are actually "green lights."

Instead of waiting impatiently for the lights in my life to turn ("We got the loan!,""I graduated!,""I've lost 20 pounds!"), I have realized that I am missing it. I am missing all the beauty and joy of life, tapping my foot, engine revving in the fast lane.

I resolve this week to do some gazing. I want to ponder. I want to appreciate. I want to enjoy. I want to savor. I want to stop, sit, listen. I am grateful once again to my priceless children who teach me everyday to be a better person.

As I have been driving this week, whenever I come to a red light, it is an opportunity. I turn, I look at them, we smile, we giggle, we sing, I tickle toes. I tell stories. I ask questions. I listen. I love. I live.

Our Town
written by Thornton Wilder

Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I'm dead. You're a grandmother, Mama! Wally's dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it - don't you remember? But, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's really look at one another!...I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food... And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?

38 ¶ Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named aMartha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

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 acareful 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.



Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"The Bottom Line on Happiness: Using Business Models to Understand and Plan for your Future Happiness

I recently read a really great article about Happiness in the Reader's Digest. By the end of the article, I was convinced the author must be LDS, so I looked it up and was glad to discover that he is LDS.

I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I did. Remember that being an "intentional" parent means planning ahead for stuff such as successful family dinner each night, or helping your children become musicians, or making sure your family cultivates habits of charity and compassion for others. These things don't just "happen" most of the time, but momentum counts for A LOT, so start while they're young and keep at it! It takes 20 years or more to build great kids.

"The Bottom Line on Happiness"

By Clayton M Christensen

My class at Harvard Business School helps students understand what good management theory is and how it is built. In each session, we look at one company through the lenses of different theories, using them to explain how the company got into its situation and to examine what action will yield the needed results. On the last day of class, I asked my class to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves to find answers to those three questions: First, How can I be sure I’ll be happy in my career? Second, How can I be sure my relationships with my spouse and my family will become an enduring source of happiness? Third, How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in prison. Jeff Skillin of Enron fame was my classmate at Harvard Business School.

I graduated HBS in 1979, and over the years, I’ve seen more and more of my classmates come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number unwittingly implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center.

Having a clear purpose has been essential to me. But it was something I had to thing long and hard about before I understood it. When I was a Rhode Scholar, I was in a very demand academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking and praying about why God put me on this earth. It was a very challenging commitment because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take time away from my studies, but I stuck with it and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.

My purpose grew out of my religious faith, but faith isn’t the only thing that gives people direction. For example, one of my former students decided that his purpose was bring honestly and economic prosperity to his country and to raise children who were as capably committed to his cause, and to each other, as he was. His purpose is focused on family and others, as is mine.

Here are some management tools that can be used to help you lead a purposeful life.

1. Use Your Resources Wisely - Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent shape your life’s strategy. I have a bunch of “businesses” that compete for these resources: I’m trying to have a rewarding relationship with my wife, raise great kids, contribute to my community, succeed in my career, and contribute to my church. And I have exactly the same problem that a corporation does. I have a limited amount of time, energy and talent. How much do I devote to each of these pursuits?

Allocation choices can make your life turn out to very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: opportunities that you have never planned for emerge. But if you don’t invest your resources wisely, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested in lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles related right back to a short-term perspective.

When people with a high need for achievement have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. Our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationships with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer the same immediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can neglect your relationship with your spouse and on a daily basis it doesn’t seem as if thing are deteriorating. People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to under invest in their families and overinvest in their careers, even though intimate and loving family relationships are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see that same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.

2. Create A Family Culture - It’s one thing to see into the foggy future with a acuity and chart the course corrections a company must make. But it’s quite another to persuade employees to line up and work cooperatively to take the company in that new direction.

When there is little agreement, you have to use “power tools” – coercion, threats, punishments and so on, to secure cooperation. But if employee’s ways of working together succeed over and over, consensus begins to form. Ultimately, people don’t even think about whether their way yields success. They embrace priorities and follow procedures by instinct and assumption rather than by explicit decision, which means that they’ve created a culture. Culture, in compelling but unspoken ways, dictates the proven, acceptable methods by which member s of a group address recurrent problems. And culture defines the priority given to different types of problems. It can be a powerful management tool.

I use this model to address the question, How can I be my family becomes an enduring source of happiness? My students quickly see that the simplest way parents can elicit cooperation from children is to wield power tools. But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point, parents start wishing they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just a companies do. Those culture can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and the confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into family’s culture and you have think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.

3. Avoid “Just this Once” - We’re taught in finance and economics that in choosing investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed cost and instead base decisions on the marginal costs – that is, the price of each individual new step or purchase. But I teach that this practice biases companies toward using what they’ve already put in place – what helped them succeed in the past – instead of guiding them to create the capabilities they’ll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, this would be fine. But if the future’s different, and it almost always is, then it’s the wrong thing to do.

The marginal cost doctrine addresses the third question I discuss with my students: how to live a life of integrity. Often when we need to choose between right and wrong, a voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s okay.” The marginal coast of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems to alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t look at where that path is ultimately headed and at the full coast that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”

I’d like to share a story about how I came to understand the potential damage of “just this once” in my own life. I played on the Oxford University varsity basketball team. We worked our tails off and finished the season undefeated. The guys on the team were the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. We got to the British equivalent of the NCAA tournament and made it to the final four. It turned out that the championship game was scheduled for a Sunday. I had made a personal commitment to God at age 16 that I would never play ball on Sunday. So I went to the coach and explained my problem. He was incredulous. My teammates were, too, because I was the starting center. Every one of the guys on the team came to and said, “You’ve got to pay. Can’t you break the rule just this one time?” I’m a deeply religious man, so I went way and prayed about what I should do. I got a very clear feeling that I shouldn’t break my commitment, so I didn’t play in the championship game.

In many ways, that was a small decision, involving one of several thousand Sundays in my life. In theory, I could have crossed over the line just that one time and then never done it again. But looking back, I can see that resisting the temptation of “just this one” was one of the most important decisions I have ever made. My life has been an unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed.

The lesson I learn is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. If you give in to “just this once.” Based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates did, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.

4. Remember to be Humble – It’s crucial to take a sense of humility in to the world. If you attitude is that only smarter people have to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself and want to help those around you feel really good about themselves too. When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.

5. Choose the Right Yardstick – Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve..but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On My Father's Wings

Last Sunday was Jacob's Eagle Court of Honor (he completed his Eagle in December 2010, but we have been so busy, we hadn't yet gotten to the ceremony).

It was such a sweet experience. His dad made a wonderful video tribute to Jacob's life growing up and his Eagle project. It was all I could do to sew on his patches and get the food prepared. (Oh, and John asked me to give a short talk which I titled, "Be Prepared"). But my favorite part of the evening was when Jacob spoke. He was truly humble. He was overwhelmed by the support (most of my family were in town for our family performance at the City Center Park the next day so there were a lot of them there. My dad and brothers sang, "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy" with Jacob, it was wonderful). He expressed gratitude to everyone, but he said, "Especially to my mom. She is always there. She gives 110% support."

I can't really explain how that felt. I guess it's a normal thing for a kid to say, but Jacob being the oldest, I haven't really heard too many such things yet. Maybe at some point these phrases will begin to sound trite to me, but on that day, it was the dearest, most genuine gift I can remember receiving as a mother. I guess for lack of a better phrase, I could call it a parental "pay day." But that falls short. No, I think I would say that in that moment, I felt, joy.

I remember when I graduated from high school. I thought, "No one can really prepare you for this. This is strange, unique, difficult..." But in the same way, I don't think anyone can really prepare you for your oldest child graduating either. It is bittersweet, for sure. But mostly, I think it's sweet. It is so fulfilling to see your life's work thus far progress to the next level. It is indeed a joy to observe your child emerge from your care as a confident, caring, obedient, intelligent person whom you know will make a positive difference in the world.

I know I am not adequately expressing the full depth of my feelings, but I know that parents understand. I hope you'll be able to close your eyes for a moment and sense how it felt or will feel when you too experience such a time. It is the closest thing to understanding God that I can imagine. Surely He loves us in the same way. I decided in that moment to be a more grateful child, because I know now how very much it must mean to my hard working, perfect Father in Heaven to hear "thank you."

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles..."

Isaiah 40:31

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Christmas 2010: Not "Sew" Bad!

I don't have anything much to say; I have just missed writing. So much has happened in the last four months, it seems like it's actually been an entire life time some how. I wish I could expound, but my brain hasn't caught up with all my feelings yet. I don't know how to articulate my experiences, so I won't try now. Sometime soon I hope to have a quiet moment when I can pull it together and make sense out of these months. I deeply hope there will be a meaningful nugget of truth to share. But if not, I still desire to share my experiences if only to be understood. That post will have to come later. For now, I'll catch up on a few things:

Last December we had a very tight budget as we are trying hard to get out of debt 100%. For a family our size and and only one income, this will likely take us about ten more years. (I'm hoping that miracles take place and shorten this time!) Anyway, we have been quite serious about stickingtoour designated budget, but realized that this would mean NO extra money for Christmas presents. So, I decided to make each child one special gift using inexpensive materials. This took a lot of work for me over the weeks leading up to Christmas, but it was actually a joy beyond my expectations. I was surprised to find snippets of time here and there where I could work uninterrupted. I was surprised also at how fast and easily I worked. Truly I was watched over and helped. My one son wanted a "Santa robe" and cap and slippers. I miraculously found some cute Santa slippers for $5 at Walmart, but had to make the robe from scratch with no pattern. I finally resorted to "copying" a robe we had at home that was several sizes too small. I laid the robe on the ground and studied every aspect. Then I carefully used my scissors to just "guesstimate" what shape and what size each piece should be. I was marveled at the result. Again, I felt heavenly help.

During one particular moment at the sewing machine, I suddenly remembered my Grandma Cora Sheffield (mom's mom). She passed away years ago. I hadn't known her very well, as we lived far apart, etc. but I remembered that one Christmas she made beautiful silk pajamas for all the granddaughters and printed flannel PJs for all the grandsons (this was no small group! More than 20 pair). Then I remembered more, like how my own mother had sewn Christmas ornaments one year with me (I still have one of those), and how mom had also spoken of making all her own clothes in college. I knew I was part of alegacy. I was creating. I was in tune with something divine, some God-given talent that had been dormant in me for many years. I have never felt a connection with this Grandmother, but suddenly, it was if we two were one; like she was guiding my efforts, my hands. I didn't waste one piece of material, no "unpicking" (a miracle for me). The whole experience was just blessed.

In the end, I made two blankets, a wall hanging, crocheted 3 scarves, embroidered a book, made the robe, made a flannel scarf with a secret pocket for an iPod, and cut out pieces for a play fort (still yet to be constructed!).
In my opinion, it was the sweetest, happiest Christmas I can recall. We spent Christmas Eve studying our different nativity sets (around 15 I think), reading "The Living Christ" (which we are currently memorizing as a family), and sharing our testimonies about the Savior. The next morning the children had literally only one homemade gift from us, and one store bought gift (we miraculously found some extra money right before Christmas!). It took very little time to open gifts, but we savored each one. The children were exquisitely grateful. It almost seemed like a scene from "Christmas Carol." I shed tears of joy all morning. Truly when we live within our means, Christmas "means" so much more. Our giving was from our hearts. It was the best of what we had to give. It represented much thought, care and sacrifice.

My daughters Hannah and Michaelah made gifts as well. Hannah created the tiniest clay nativity. It is so precious and beautiful to me. Truly she is an artist. What a wonderful day.

The Lord knew I needed that moment of peace, that snatch of heaven, before the ensuing months.

Then, after a crazy couple of months, I was able to dust off my sewing machine again. This time to create a Junior Prom dress. It was designed in my daughter's beautiful head. However, she has not sewn much and didn't know how to construct it. I begged her to choose a pattern we could simply alter. She did, and together we kept at it until we ran out of time (her date literally waiting in the front entry!). It wasn't quite as she had envisioned, but she did look lovely. And for me, another miracle was felt. Due to my stressful month, we were only able to start sewing at about 8 pm the night before. Around 4 am she finally drifted to sleep (she had a 7:30 am choir competition!). I stayed up throughout the night and completed as much as I could. There were many elements I had never encountered, such as a full lining and netting and adding non existent sleeves to the pattern. (Thanks Aunt Becky, for doing the sleeves!). It was a challenge in every way. But again, I felt the divine help as before. I only "unpicked" once on just a small portion. What a miracle (with satin especially!).
So, what is the moral of the story today? I don't know that there is one. Frankly, I am tired of being clever. I just wanted to share these feelings and experiences and joys that I have felt from being a mother. That is all. I am humbled, grateful, tired and peaceful. I have really good kids. Really good. I thank my God for that.

Bring ye all the atithes into the storehouse, that there may bebmeat in mine house, and cprove me now herewith, saith the Lordof hosts, if I will not dopen you the ewindows of heaven, and pour you out a fblessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Malachi 3:10