Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Barren or Joyful?

This last week was a learning week for me. A real learning week. Learning about being a mother. A joyful mother. Two Sundays ago I had a mental, emotional and physical breakdown.

I was supposed to teach the Relief Society lesson at church (our women's organization.) My husband had to attend ward conferences in another building for his stake calling which meant that he was at church meetings from 8:30 - 4:00, and then from 5:00-7:00. That meant I was responsible to get everyone ready, get everyone dressed, keep everyone partially reverent during the hour sacrament meeting before they went to their children's class, and somehow keep a spiritual frame of mind so I could teach a decent lesson. Not only that, all of my children were sick and so unhappy. I knew they shouldn't even be going because others would not appreciate us getting their children sick.

I was in such a turmoil as to what to do. I shouldn't be taking my kids, yet I had to teach... this was too last minute to call someone up a couple hours before and have them teach. I couldn't ask Beau to stay with the kids because he had responsibilities and obligations he had to be to. They were constantly whining, fighting, and miserable... making me even more miserable than I already felt... it was too much. I was feeling out of sorts too and before I knew it I was an emotional wreck, crying allday long. I felt guilty skipping out of my calling (which I had called to see if someone else could do explaining the situation), especially because I really wanted to teach. It's only one day a month, and it's only my only chance to serve. By the end of the day when Beau finally got home I was a wreck. Barely functioning. The kids had wore me out, my emotions had wore me out, I was a basket case. He knew it too. How could you not. :)

But throughout the day, especially that night as I rocked Caitlyn to sleep, I wondered what in the world was wrong with me. I realized I was exhausted. Tired. Tired of whining kids, tired of cleaning, tired of feeding everyone 3 meals a day, tired of no one caring or even noticing what I did every day, tired of feeling like I'm failing and letting people down, tired of hearing mom, mom, mom, mom, mom over and over again. I felt spiritually deplete and low and I was just tired. Oh so tired. I had come to the conclusion that I needed to just get away for a day or overnight. Breathe deep. Have time to myself. Have time to read scriptures pray and get in tune with the spirit again. Some time to organize me and my life a little bit. Time to just be with me and fill my empty bucket.

Beau wanted to talk, and so I spilled it out, all my feelings, thoughts, frustrations. You name it - he got it all. All in one long stream... ending with the thoughts of needing some time to myself.

He sat quietly for a while and I knew he was trying to sort through everything I had said and trying to figure out what to say or how to help. He then sighed and said, "I'm sorry honey." Then he said something along the lines of... "Part of our Sunday school lesson today was on listening to and heeding the spirit. I've had some thoughts last night and all day today that I want to share with you, but I'm not sure whether to share them with you or not. I'm not sure if this is the right time to or not. I'm afraid if I did you'll think I wasn't listening to what your saying. But at the same time wondering if should, if it's one of those small promptings I should act on."

Hmmm... I don't necessarily like it when it's put that way. Do you know why. Because it means that he has something to tell me that I most likely will not like, and most likely is something opposite than what I want. But feeling the lack of the spirit all day, and needing something... anything, I told him to tell me anyway. He still was unsure, and decided to read me something instead. He pulled out a magazine and pulled out a talk given by Jeffery R. Holland called "Lessons from Liberty Jail." You can read or listen to it here. I immediately thought, oh no. This is not what I want to hear. I don't want to hear that I just need to keep pushing through this. It's a trial, it's hard, but keep going.

But I listened to him as he read and as he read things jumped out at me. One thing I was really feeling lately was a lack of was a closeness to god, revelations, feeling the spirit, etc. I was really feeling a lack of time to ponder, mediate, pray and stregnthen that relationship. That was one reason why I wanted so badly to escape for the weekend and go somewhere, where I wouldn't be interruped by kids and I could have this. That's when these thoughts made an impression.

"You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring
the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced."

"Now let’s talk about those propositions for a moment. Every one of us, in one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not have been our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution; we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones; we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives. But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship
and peace."

"When lonely, cold, hard times come, we have to endure, we have to continue, we have to persist. That was the Savior’s message in the parable of the importuning widow (see Luke 18:1–8; see also 11:5–10). Keep knocking on that door. Keep pleading. In the meantime, know that God hears your cries and knows your distress. He is your Father, and you are His child. When what has to be has been and when what lessons to be learned have been learned, it will be for us as it was for the Prophet Joseph. Just at the time he felt most alone and distant from heaven’s ear was the very time he received the wonderful ministration of the Spirit and wonderful, glorious answers that came from his Father in Heaven."

While we continued to read through it the Spirit started working on my heart and started teaching me things. After he finished reading Beau said something along these lines..."Honey I don't want you to think that I don't want to give you a break, give you time to yourself and to rest. I do, but sometimes I think too often when we are tired, we use it as an excuse to sit back and do nothing, it's too easy to just want to escape and go somewhere else. Whether it's physically escaping or mentally. We want to escape the tiredness, or escape everything we need to do. Escaping isn't the answer. We'll come back, refreshed briefly, but soon something will come up, we'll be exhausted and we'll want to escape again."

We kept talking, but I started thinking and learning things... It was a hard conversation. I knew he was right, but part of me was still exhausted and still wanted a break, a time to rest. (Don't worry he's still promised me that... Don't go thinking what a terrible husband I have! He's not. He's an amazing husband.) Part of me worried that if I didn't get a break now, I never would, and that set me off into more tears.

But this is what I've learned from that experience, and have been learning all week as it kept having reasons to come up, when the kids were rough, when things didn't happen like I wanted it to, and as I've studied my scriptures.

As mothers we wear ourselves out. We give, and give, and give, until we have nothing left. We are exhausted, we are burned out. We can get to the point where emotionally and physcially we are done. We want a break, we want rest, we want to escape it. We look for ways to escape. We want rest because we are so tired. We think the answer is sleep. We think the answer is escaping and taking a break. But we're wrong. The answer is in this.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

There is only one who can give us the rest we truly desire. There is only one place to find that rest. That is in our Savior.

"We are not alone in our little prisons here. When suffering, we may in fact be nearer to God than we’ve ever been in our entire lives. That knowledge can turn every such situation into a would-be temple."

"When we promise to follow the Savior, to walk in His footsteps and be His disciples, we are promising to go where that divine path leads us. the path of salvation has always led one way or another through Gethsemane. So if the Savior faced such injustices and discouragements, such persecutions, unrighteousness, and suffering, we cannot expect that we are not going to face some of that if we still intend to call ourselves His true disciples and faithful followers. And it certainly underscores the fact that the righteous—in the Savior’s case, the personification of righteousness—can be totally worthy before God and still suffer.

In fact, it ought to be a matter of great doctrinal consolation to us that Jesus, in the course of the Atonement, experienced all of the heartache and sorrow, all of the disappointments
and injustices that the entire family of man had experienced and would experience from Adam and Eve to the end of the world in order that we would not have to face them so severely or so deeply. However heavy our load might be, it would be a lot heavier if the Savior had not gone that way before us and carried that burden with us and for us."

"When it is obvious that a little time in Liberty Jail waits before you (spiritually speaking), remember these first two truths taught to Joseph in that prison-temple. First, God has not forgotten you, and second, the Savior has been where you have been, allowing Him to provide for your deliverance and your comfort." (Holland)

I think too often when I have thought of "Coming to Christ" I thought that it meant more to: think of him, do what he would do, trying to emulate him and worship him. I have come to realize that is wrong. (Not that we shouldn't do that.) Coming to Christ means to come to him on bended knees, in our time when we are exhausted, when we are crying, when we are at the end, and asking for his help. Asking for his grace - which is "enabling power and stregnth" to keep going, to be stronger, to be able to do better, to forgive us for all our shortcomings that seem to flow out of us at those low times. To ask for comfort, to ask for rest, to ask for understanding and for the powers and effects of the atonement to work personally in our lives.

He knows and he understands. I often forget that knows. He's been there. The other night I realized that he knew how tired I was, he knew how exhausted I was. He's been there... he gave emotionally, physcially and spiritually to people all day long. He knew what it was like to be tired and exhausted. We know in the scriptures that at one point the apostles knew and recognized how tired and drained he was. It was at this same time when the people brought their little children to come and see Christ. The apostles tried to push them away, telling them to come back later, but the Savior replied "Suffer the little children to come unto me." I need to be praying for this same ability and stregnth. That when I am exhausted and tired, that instead of wanting to push my children away that I suffer them to come to me instead.

After a very long discussion, I came to conclusion that Beau was right. I was seeking rest in the wrong place. I need to seek it in the right place. Has that been easy. No way! It's been a challenge this week. But I see myself understanding better. In fact later on in the week I ran across this scripture in my study.

"He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord." Psalms 29:15

I have always read this scripture as the barren woman being one who could have no children. This week I read it differently especially after reading the definitions for barren in the dicitionary.

-lacking interest or charm
-lacking inspiration or ideas
-not producing anything of value or interest
-lacking in something specific
-incapable of sustaining life.

Have you felt any of these as a mother? Are we more barren than we think. How I want so badly to no longer be barren, but be a joyful mother. I also can not become one unless I search the Lord out on how to be one and have him help fill those barren parts of me through the power of his atonment. Only then will I be a joyful mother.

Are you barren? Are you tired? Are you exhausted? Find rest in the one that can truly give it you.


Jan Hicks said...

Oh Shalae! Hugs to you, my friend, as you walk this path. It's not easy, is it? But it's so worth it. It sounds like you have a very wise and caring husband there, too. You are truly blessed, my friend. And even tho the days continue to be hard, it sounds like you are finding your rest.

Thank you for this post. It is a wonderful testimony!

Spencer and Kimberly said...

I think we all have times like this as mothers, but look at what you learned and taught us! What a good example you are to push through and look at the good. Thanks for sharing!

Caroline said...

This is a great message Shalae! Thank you for sharing it with us! This made me think and you are so right, although I can relate that it is not always easy to see and feel when you are tired! Hope you feel better by now! Hugs!

Laurel said...

Oh Shalae, how did you know that I would need this post today? :) Thank you so much for sharing your insights into this feeling of being barren and exhausted. I am sure we all go through this as mothers at one time or another (or a lot of times during the course of a week!) and as hard as it is to look at it from another angle, it's also liberating. Knowing that I don't need to run, but that through Christ I can be strong and have a support system that I didn't realize I had before. So just thank you for sharing this, it's helped me much more than you can know today. :)

Elise said...

Shalae, I was just thinking about this same thing earlier today. Thanks for sharing this it really made me think about my perspective and where my priorities are and where they should be. I hope that things are going better for you.

Mandy said...

Just the other day I was hit out of nowhere with some hard news. I immediately started thinking about how I could escape. I realized I had the whole entire day to go through, taking care of my kids, making meals and such, and that I wasn't going to get anytime to myself to just escape it all and think. It was a hard realization for me. But I think the idea is that we ask God to come right into that moment. Into "our actuals" if you will. :)

I love the definitions of barren...I've never thought of that verse that way. Of course I have felt all those things at different times in my weeks as a mom. So thank you for this insight. I think it's amazing that you and Beau were able to have such a civil conversation about some hard things in your life. That's awesome.

Rebekah said...

Shalae, I don't know of a mother who hasnt' felt just like you. I'm so grateful for Beau's inspiration. It's helpful to me, as well. Thank you for sharing this experience to help all of us "tired mothers".