I was given the daunting task of giving a talk in church yesterday on Mother's Day. Truthfully, I cried through the whole thing and my voice reached into the octaves only heavens can recognize. I am sure the audience still has a ringing in their ears.
Last year on Mother’s Day I had a perfect maternal moment. I wasn’t able to go to church, having just giving birth to our brand new pink and plump daughter Ever. Around noon I put her to bed in the nursery, shut the door as silently as possible and headed down the stairs. It was there I was met by my two year old son looking a bit post-church disheveled, but smiling as wide as his crooked bow tie. In his hand he held out a geranium, a hopeful plant, boasting a couple pink blossoms and stem full of buds. From around the corner I heard my husband Christopher’s voice,
“Tell Mommy, Happy Mother’s Day,” he prompted.
“Happy Day!” my son announced offering his potted prize, arms stretched wide in my direction.
For as long as I can remember Mother’s Day has come with very few variables. Like mine last year, there are the plants offered out to the women of the ward by a company of cheerful youth. There is usually a mention about the armies of Helaman whose mother’s taught them “that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them” and their unsurprising statement, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” After all these were women of God who knew how to make and keep covenants, even in the face of death. And, lastly there seems to be another Mother’s Day constant, an uncontrollable emotion that many woman can’t avoid on this holiday: guilt.
On a day devoted to cherishing motherhood, a whole twenty four hours committed to pedestals and plants, songs about clover and lyrics that say,” Mother, so tender and kind and true” some of us can’t help but think of all the non-tender, unkind and invalid moments that daily creep into our lives as mothers. Some of us don’t really think we deserve all that clover with their “blossoms of blue.”
Perhaps that guilt is so pervasive on this holiday because motherhood doesn’t always feel like a victory, but rather a cyclical rehearsal of tries and fails. There are good days, and there are hard days each salted with the very best of intentions, but there is no finish line with emotional bouquets of ultimate achievements. Here, in this calling the medals come only in poignant moments, but never in sweeping finalities. As my mother always says to me whenever I give her any motherhood-related compliment, “Well, I’m not done yet.” I wonder if we will ever feel whole heartedly finished with this particular mission.
Admittedly I am one of these mothers who feels a bit sheepish about taking on the glory of motherhood. It such a humbling duty, one that sometimes literally never sleeps. The credit can’t be mine, even for my children’s cuteness because they look just like their daddy.
But the absolute truth is this: If I am a good mother, it’s because I am not doing this alone; it is a total and complete group effort by all of us who are in this together.
For instance, last night we took our children to buy a snow cone up the street. We were happily accompanied by the best neighbors in the world, five year olds Asher and Maya Dean. Because of a small hiccup in getting out the door, they decided to run ahead of us, and persuaded my son to come along. Now I know that their mother, Janna has taught them an impeccable sense of safety. They know and obey the rules of the sidewalk and crossing the street. Because Janna took time to teach her children, I had no worries about sending my child with hers down the street. And sure enough, when Christopher and I came out of the house we looked up the corner to see three children patiently waiting for us to help them cross the street. If I am a good mother, it’s because Janna is a good mother.
If I am a good mother, it’s because my children have a good father. He who is far more attentive than I am, a soft-hearted dad who ultimately can’t say, No. He is the enforcer of family prayers and sets a tone in our house of reverence and kindness. Being a wife is often times just as humbling as being a mother.
If I am a good mother it’s because I’ve listened to the wisdom of Bryn who has taught me that motherhood is physical labor and assured me that our children are better because of it.
If I am a good mother it’s because of Joanne's comments in Sunday School that have often turned my entire perspective of the gospel into a deeper and more loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
If I am a good mother it’s because I have one, a fun-loving and bright spirited woman who hates to see her children endure hard things, but never hesitates to praise them for coming through on the other side. This was the case for me, when I spent five child-less years with a heavy heart wanting to more than anything to be a mother. She cried with me for all those years and was there the day it finally happened, when that little being was swaddled and handed to me on the hospital bed.
And after that happened--the initiation into motherhood--I was surprised to realize how much it actually felt like bits and pieces of my former life. There were elements of babysitting, aunthood and sisterhood, but most of all there was a definite reminder of my time as a full-time missionary. The bodily exhaustion mixed with the divine reaching and mingling of the veil I could not deny. Then and today, I think of both motherhood and missionary service when I hear the Lord’s promise to the elders of the early church, “for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
If the “errand of angels is given to women” as the hymn Sisters in Zion is written, I can testify that this calling does not end for women when we die. As promised, on days where I have done my part to connect to holiness, I can feel an undeniable force of angels in my home. Women who are watching over my children and encouraging me along. They are the women who lived before me, my grandmother, my great grandmothers, ancestors who share my blood and my mission. They are there in the early mornings when an intense set of morning sickness has settled in and I have no energy to get the baby from the crib. It’s on those mornings I hear from the nursery the baby completely entertained as if someone were there with her, making her laugh and indulging her in happy conversation. This buys me a few minutes of catching my resolve to get up and get going. If I am a good mother it’s because of the angels round about me bearing me up.
Also as promised, I know the Lord is there too--on my right hand on my left. It was His Spirit of warning I felt when I found a lump my son's shoulder, and it was His Spirit of comfort I felt in the Doctor’s office as we held our unaware two year old down for an emergency removal of the lump—an extremely painful procedure void of any numbing—an intense situation I hope to never repeat again. And it was He who I prayed to with overwhelming gratitude learning that the lump was only an abscess and not something more serious.
But He’s there in the quiet times too, when there’s just the creaking of a rocking chair and my baby’s soft sleeping breath on my chest. Those are the times He says to me, “You are a good mother because you are willing to try.”
I know the Lord loves women, and I know He loves the men who love them. And I know he blesses the children with a friendship of angels, both here on earth and in heaven. I know this is the holiest of work, and we do it in His name, Jesus Christ, amen.
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