Monday, November 29, 2010

Discouraged By What I'm Not Doing?

The Question:

Dear Jane,

I am in my ward’s Primary presidency and I have three very active young children ages five, three, and a new baby. My husband works very long hours (usually more than 12 a day) and travels. I am grateful to be able to stay home with our kids and recognize the blessing it is, but by the end of the day I’m exhausted, frustrated, and go to bed knowing that I’m going to have to do it all over again tomorrow. I know my situation is far from unique and that women all over the world do exactly what I’m doing everyday—probably with much more patience. But since I constantly feel emotionally and physically drained I feel like I have no energy for my Primary calling. I live in a very young ward with a large Primary so everyone serving in callings also has young children. I want to be dedicated and to care about the children in our ward and to feel a deep concern for their well-being, but most days I don’t even feel like I can offer my all to my own children let alone everyone else’s children. I’m not going to ask for a release from my calling and I feel happy when I’m in Primary, but the rest of the week I rarely think about the children in my ward and things I can do to help them and I feel bad for not wanting to care/feeling like I can care. Do you have any advice?

The Ornery Primary Lady
The Answer:
Dear Friend,

Actually, I would say that your situation is pretty unique--your husband working twelve hour days and travelling besides? A new baby and two other little ones? No wonder you're feeling overwhelmed. In response to your letter, I'd like to share a little lesson that I recently learned from my daughter, Natalie. It has really helped me and maybe it can be a lesson for all of us. Natalie has four little boys and another on the way. The oldest is five. About a month ago, I was really worried about her. She seemed completely buried--tired and discouraged. I don't live close to her and because I am finishing my degree right now, I wasn't even available by phone. Our hurried conversations always left me feeling helpless. I offered many prayers for her throughout my days at school. Then one day, she shared a new insight she had gained. It was so profound. She realized that it was humanly impossible to do all that was required of her in a day, perfectly. She was just one person--one tired, pregnant person. So she stopped and thought about what mattered most to her...what gave her the most satisfaction at the end of the day, and what disappointed her the most if left undone. She realized that what really mattered the most to her were her relationships--with the Lord, with her husband and with her children, She decided that those relationships would come first for her. She began to make sure that she made time for scripture study. She has always studied but now it became a top priority. She became more attuned to each of her children. If the laundry sat undone it was ok. It things weren't perfect, they weren't. At the end of the day, she measured her success by these relationships. She was surprised to find that by putting those things first, the other tasks usually fell into place as well. But inwardly, she felt a new peace.

All of that said, I want to encourage you not to give up on your church calling. I've known a lot of people who let their callings go in the name of "family comes first" and usually, they don't experience the relief they hoped for. Over the years, I've accepted callings and I see them as an opportunity to use my talents in serving the Lord. As a result, my capacities have increased and many of my talents have been developed in ways that are surprising. For example, I've learned to organize people, plan and carry out activities, assess needs and meet them. I've grown musically and learned teaching skills. I've learned a great deal about child development. Long before I had teen-agers, I had the opportunity to work with them and understand their challenges. It played a part in how I taught my little children when I got home--what I chose to emphasize to prepare them for those years. I came to understand that magnifying my callings in the church, not only brought blessings to our family, but expanded me personally.

Of course, there is another great benefit. As our children watch us give our all to the Lord, they learn that he is important--they learn to be magnifiers themselves. I certainly got that message from my mother. I'll never forget her years as a Stake MIA president. Back then, it was a tremendously demanding calling. I must have been about 6 or 7 when we spent an entire Saturday decorating the church for a "Centennial Ball." We transformed a room into an ice cream parlor, we hung chandeliers (that we had constructed from coat hangers, twinkle lights and spray paint) all over the gym--and more. It was so elaborate. But I learned that we give our best to the church. It's the Lord's kingdom on earth. I can tell you honestly, that my service in the church has never taken away from my family. When I start feeling like I don't like a calling, I sit down and list all the things I could be doing to magnify it and then I just start doing them little by little. Before I know it, I love my calling. And almost every one of my closest friendships have been formed as I've worked along side people in the church. It's the way our hearts are knit together. Those connections, with your presidency, teachers and especially the children can bring joy and meaning to your life as you make this sacrifice.

I hope this reply doesn't seem insensitive. I really do know that your life is very demanding. But remember that the Lord thinks you can do this even with a full plate. Maybe he wants to stretch you. I'm grateful that he has steadily believed in me through the years, challenged me and accepted my efforts. May he bless you.

With love,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Letter From Jane: A House Of Order

Dear Readers,

I know that when you read the title of this letter, you’ll be hoping for cleaning tips or organization methods.  I do have some of those.  But I want to say a word today about something more basic.  And I’d like to start out by issuing you a challenge.  This challenge is going to sound impossible.  So you know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important and if I didn’t know how much it would bless your life.  Here it is.  I want you to begin every day with 15 minutes or more of scripture study, followed by a really good prayer.  I’m not sure how you’re going to do it…how you’ll need to juggle, but I want you to commit to try.  

And it really matters that you do it before everything else.  Here’s why.
  1. It clearly tells the Lord that he comes first with you—that everything else in your life is built upon this relationship.  You know that wonderful scripture in Ether (5:12)  …it is upon the rock of your Redeemer that you must build your foundation…  Picture that your days are like structures that you are building. When you place the Lord first, he becomes the foundation of your work.  Like paying tithing first, there is power in everything else that follows and confidence that your efforts will be magnified, blessed and that the windows of heaven will be opened.  When we launch into our day without that help, we are flying alone.  Our Heavenly Father becomes an afterthought…even an obligation.  
  2. You will experience an increase of peace.  I love this quote by Merrill Bateman:  “As faith grows, our vision of eternity expands, which increases our capacity to meet life’s challenges.”   There is no more challenging life than yours.  You need wisdom.  You need ideas and plans and blueprints to go on as you raise these little children.  Why wouldn’t we enlist the Lord’s help and depend on his direction?  There is no more satisfying experience than to receive a flash of inspiration about one of your children—knowing that it came from outside of yourself.  It’s usually something so simple but when implemented it turns the tide.  It’s always loving.  And peace comes because you recognize that you are not alone.  You remember that you are not the only parent here.  You are really just an instrument.  As I’ve mentioned before, these flashes of light do not usually come during the prayer or even during the scripture study, but later in the day.
  3. It is the way to truly teach your children the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It becomes written in the “fleshy tablets of your heart.”   You teach them from your own experience.  When you tell them of the reality of God, they know that you know.  Otherwise, it’s only words.  The accumulated days of study and prayer, produce in you, core strength.  There is no substitute for that.  There is no shortcut.   Our world is darkening.  In the past few weeks, I have watched some of my most precious friends struggle with their faith, lose their testimony and let go.  We’re going to see this more and more as we move into these final days.  Our children need more than visual aids.  They need to know because their mothers taught them.  
There are other reasons.  But unless you really commit to this and create this pattern in your life, you will not experience the blessings.  Give place for this expansion to happen.  It will give perspective and often solutions to every single problem in your life.  I know this from my own experience.  I’ll end with my current favorite scripture.  I read it in Gospel Doctrine class this past Sunday and I loved it.

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her tent shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”   Jeremiah 17: 7-8

All my love,