Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Here is the mother of humanity..."

It's been a while. Life is moving quickly now, with all the pieces falling beautifully into place for us.

I went back to work for a couple of weeks...hence my absence. I was doing a subbing position for a teacher whose lovely wife just had their first child. I am relieved to be done, and relieved for the boon of income that will arrive just in time for the move.

We've all been sick around here--a funny illness that takes your voice first, before any other symptoms arrive, but the last couple of days, I've been coughing and tired. The New Guy is coughing too--I lay awake in the night listening to him breathe. I am sleeping less than I ought, but one of these days he'll be too big or too far away for me to listen attentively to his little snorts and snuffles or worry over a few coughs in the night.

Today was our last day at church before the move--we'll be in Utah for a wedding next weekend, and on our way to our new life the weekend after. It seems crazy to know that after all these months of the unknown, its all really here. So much left to do...

At any rate, I am so grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. One of the most comforting things for me, in uprooting my family from the only home they have known and the extended family around them, is that in our new place, the Gospel will still be true, we'll still have the same support system, and that even the lessons here will be the same as they are there. I know this organization is divine, and I will feel a piece of home--my Father's home--in any place I find the Gospel.

It was an exhausting day for me. In spite of the fact that my voice is on sabbatical, the Mister and I had to give the talks in sacrament meeting today, and being that it was our last week in our wonderful ward, it made it that much more difficult. I spoke about the value of women, about our sacred and divine roles in Heavenly Father's plan for His children.

As a youth, and through my college years, I was never really enamored of this idea of becoming a mother. I knew how valuable a role it was, and in theory I understood and appreciated it, but the practical application of motherhood in my own life seemed, frankly, too big and scary of an idea. I had never seen myself as being particularly good with children, and excepting my own nephews and nieces, I didn’t really enjoy being around them all that much. By some standards, the Mister and I waited a long time to start a family after we married, and he was certainly ready to do so when we married. But he was very patient, bringing up the question from time to time, and letting me know that whenever I felt like it was time, he was happy with that.

Ultimately, one of the reasons I have loved this ward so very much is because it was the influence of the wonderful women in this ward who gave me the courage to become a mother. The world is a big and scary place, and I was afraid of not being able to do right by the precious spirits God would place in my stewardship. Thankfully, I saw the children in this ward who are so blessed to have such wonderful, righteous women bringing them up in the safety and security of the Gospel. Without the influence of the amazing women in the ward we have been the last few years, I don't know that I would even yet have the two most remarkable gifts of my sweet children. I thought I understood the doctrine of motherhood, but it is far more than I could have imagined, and being in precisely this place, with these women, helped me to see that. Another piece of the puzzle--another testament of the Lord's hand in my life. I always thought we ended up here out of circumstance, but I see His plan in all of it now.

I found this lovely quote from Sheri Dew, a former General Relief Society President, and I just love it.
"When we understand the magnitude of motherhood, it becomes clear why prophets have been so protective of woman’s most sacred role. While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”—and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed pre-mortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us."

I know that the Lord knows me. I have always known that, but I know it again. I have always had Him answer my prayers, but know He answers me further. I have always felt His presence, seen Him perform miracles in my life, and now He continues to be there, to guide me, to give me far beyond any possible right I might have. And even now, as I look back on my life, more miracles emerge, more beauty, more influence, more love showered upon me by the Savior of my soul, and the Father in Heaven who know me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"..wherever there is beauty, he will find a home."

I left my home today, for the last time, as my home.

I've been looking forward to it. I've been ready for it.

In truth, its not like we've even been living there for the last few weeks.

But tomorrow our new tenants move in, and then it will be their home.

We cleaned, we scrubbed, we carted off the last of our belongings, we made way for someone else's belongings, made a place for them to have their own memories.

I didn't think I'd care. But as I walked through that little home, turning off lights, I was reminded...

I ran my hands across the words, "Live in the Sunshine" on my daughter's bedroom wall.
I looked at the four square walls of our now empty bedroom, thinking of our family of four piled in the bed, nights laying awake and watching my husband snore, sleepless nights of sick babies.
I saw where I laid my children, this being the place I brought them home to.
I lived there alone a few months, the Mister and I separated while he waited for our house in Virginia to sell.  I thought of the long nights on the phone, his surprise visit--just like dating again...

I walked through each room, running my hands along the walls, thinking of how this home had seen us through nearly every stage of our family thus far.

A friend of mine, when I mentioned this difficulty, shared a thought her mother had shared with her: "Change, of any sort, requires courage."

So I girded up my loins and breathed deeply of the history of this home.

I loved it suddenly then, more than ever, and I think I shall love it always.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined."

This is perhaps the best Thoreau-ism of all time. It speaks to me louder than any other tidbit the man wrote in Walden (and believe me, there are gazillions). In fact, I have, since visiting Walden Pond at age 19, kept a framed version of those words in my home.

And yet...
               and yet...

My husband and I, we hadn't been living the life we imagined.

The Mister and I are sometimes referred to as optimists, hippies, free-spirits, etc. All of these words in some way or another really just mean that we are dreamers, at least to a degree. We imagine a better life for our family, a better world in general, an unconventional style of living for ourselves. For one reason or another though, we have always had a tendency to simply go with the flow. This hasn't always been a bad thing--we have been presented with many wonderful opportunities and have lived a happy and comfortable life. We have a joyful marriage, delightful children, and a peaceful home. However, in spite of all this, we weren't living the life we imagined. And we were sort of circling around our dreams, not walking confidently toward them. An opportunity would arise, and providing it made sense, we'd take it.

Turns out, we're kind of chicken.

For several years now, I have been teaching high school. And although it is a job I enjoy, and a job which I know I am very good at, my heart wasn't totally in it. After I had my daughter, this became even more apparent, and through my pregnancy with my son, I knew that what I really wanted was to simply be a mom to my children. At the end of the last school year, that opportunity became a reality. Originally, the choice had been made for me--like many of the choices we had fallen into over the years. My position was no longer available, and it seemed to make sense. However, as more positions opened in my district and I was being offered them, the idea of staying home became more and more difficult to wrestle with. I was no longer forced out of my position; I had to make a choice. Ultimately, we decided that we would somehow make ends meet, and followed the very strong spiritual promptings that I should leave teaching. It was one of the first real "leaps" we had taken in our marriage--a first, confident step in the direction of our dreams, and the catalyst for the pathway that opened up for us.

Over this past summer, we received a major shock. My husband's own teaching position--a position which had literally fallen into his lap--was in serious jeopardy. He had been teaching woodshop at the high school level for the last few years. And while he enjoyed it greatly, he had originally taken the job in hopes that it would open up his schedule a bit more, allowing him to finish his own college degree. However, what we really ended up doing was enrolling him in a lot of classes to keep up with his teaching requirements, which hardly pertain to what he really wants to be when he "grows up." At any rate, at the end of summer, it became very apparent that the work he had put into maintaining his teaching certificate may have turned out to be in vain. We were, quite simply, put into a tailspin as our sense of security, our ability to provide for our children, and our general complacency went out the window.

We struggled through those few days. We wondered why, in His infinite wisdom, the Lord would have prompted us so strongly for me to leave my teaching position, if this was coming down the pipe. We wondered why He prompted us so strongly to push my husband through a series of summer courses for his teaching certificate that were intense--academically and financially--if there would be no job for him to use them. Finally, once the shock began to wear off, we got down to business and started addressing the situation. We turned to the Lord and quit asking "Why did this happen?" and started asking "Where do we go from here?"

We started looking for jobs (hard to come by for teachers at the end of summer) and exploring options. We asked ourselves the questions that really matter--what do we want most?--and came up with nearly identical answers--space for our kids, simplicity, nature, and for my husband to finally be done with school. We realized the things we wanted most, were things we didn't have.

The idea of my husband going back to school came up, and while it seemed crazy--to pick up our kids, sell everything we owned, and go back to the poor student lifestyle--it became apparent that this was precisely the opportunity we had been given. The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, had given us a chance to really make our choice--not to fall into something, but to make a choice. We realized that my husband could continue to pursue teaching--something he enjoyed, but wasn't his dream--, or he could go back to school and live the life we imagined. And we KNEW that whichever choice we made, things would start to fall into place, because both were equally worthy in they eyes of the Lord.

Once we chose to send my husband back to school, miracles began to happen. The night we decided, we both came up with the name of the same university--a place neither of us had ever given much thought to. That night, I found a job posting at the university that fit my skills perfectly--it would also provide free housing and income. Those summer classes he had taken for his teaching certificate? They put him over the edge to qualify for a full-tuition scholarship, thanks to his perfect grades. The impending move let us start letting go of the things we thought we needed--we were finally starting to kick the consumer habit. He was able to keep his teaching position through December, accepted to the University for January; I got the job (hooray for a place to live and income); some dear friends approached us about renting the home we own in Arizona.

The list of blessings goes on, but suffice it to say, once we started asking the Lord the right questions, the "why" became apparent. Here was an event, originally seen as disaster, that instead turned out to be a miraculous gift. He knew the desires of our heart--He knew of the life we had been imagining. And all He wanted to do was give us the confidence to head that direction.