Thursday, September 17, 2015

Glorious Homemaking in . . . Mortal Conditions

A week or two ago I received a message from a friend I've gotten to know through blogging. She was hosting a blogger round-up of sorts and wondered if I'd be interested in participating. The theme, she told me, was: elevating the term “homemaker”.

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I was flattered she would ask, but the feeling of self-importance drifted rather quickly away and left me feeling . . . deflated. There was, it seemed to me, very little lofty or elevated in my current homemaker status.

Sure, I could write about how we managed to get a good 90 seconds of scripture reading in before school that morning (four minutes, probably, . . . if you counted interruptions). I could add how the girls' hair was braided and how there were hugs given. But I'd have to include that at least one child ate leftover brownies for breakfast and that I couldn't actually confirm whether anyone had brushed teeth or clean faces as they headed out the door. I'd also have to admit that the hugs were given only after abruptness and rushing had first caused tears (and that the hugs were one-armed . . . as pretty much everything was that morning due to a nursing newborn).

In fact, at the same time as I sat pondering what I might add to this blogging round-up, I was, yet again, nursing that newborn. Only, I was simultaneously using a motorized pump (all part of a frantic effort to increase my milk supply – which, ever since my fourth child, struggles to fully come in). While in that rather awkward situation, my 13 month old managed to fall off a footstool in the bathroom. As I called to her toddler brother to come try and cheer her up, I debated what the “good, better, and best” was here: let the fallen tough it out, hope her three-year-old brother would show up and offer enough comfort, or run to her aid (jolting a newborn from her peaceful eating and losing the whole balance of feeding and pumping I'd just managed)? And that wasn't all. My windows and mirrors were covered in so many fingerprints that even my kids (the very ones who'd made the fingerprints and typically remained oblivious to them) had been asking things like, “What's all over that mirror?”. There was more laundry in my laundry room than you could shake a stick at (and I really should have used something more original there, but seriously, . . . . you'd be shaking that stick for a long time). And, I was struggling with numerous and varied anxieties over others of my children – and over my abilities to teach and give those children everything they required.

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What did I know about homemaking? (And who on earth would take advice from a homemaker who had to occasionally supplement breast-feeding with formula?)

Amidst all of that homemaking chaos, I never did get a post written in time. Still, as I pondered on it in the days following, I found my mind going continually back to an emailed conversation I'd had with another good friend. It came shortly after my recent, less-than-perfect, labor experience (wherein we left our house in a rush – leaving dirty bathrooms, incomplete chore lists, uncelebrated birthdays, and overly tired and messy kids – and dashed, full of pain and worry, to the hospital; arriving fully dilated with a breech baby and no time to ponder the magnitude of . . . well . . . anything). My friend had talked to me about how she had come to realize that sometimes the very “un-idealness” of our situations is part of the sacrifice God asks of us. She was perhaps overly kind, but she brought me to tears and gave me a beautiful new perspective with her appraisal of my birth situation when she said:

“. . . there is a level at which the very ordinariness of it all CREATES the beauty . . . . And the sacrifice of a mother bringing her child here, . . . willingly enduring whatever came, however mundane, with all its unheroic indignities of catheters and botched epidurals and whatnot—THIS IS BEAUTIFUL to God. This is heroic to God. This story is, in its way, as vast and amazing as the pioneer mother dying to give birth to her child, and as full and deep as the mother who pushed for 6 hours in the birthing tub at home—because it concerns a daughter of God who chose His will freely, and loved this new tiny someone so much that she would endure the biggest—and the smallest—of difficulty for her."

Sometimes this whole business of making a home and raising a family is clearly wrapped up in the eternal gloriousness of it all – laboring while feeling the presence of angels, sacrifice accompanied by cheery little voices and freshly bathed children. In those moments the purpose and rightness of what we are doing – the truly elevated role of homemaking -- is incredibly clear and evident. And I've had those moments. Lots of them. Moments when I am out running with Goldie and we have just the right conversation. Moments when I'm tired and worn out, but I still manage to have my children all gathered around me reading stories at the end of the day. Moments when I run my fingers through Abe's hair when I go to tell him goodnight and share a spiritual experience that he clearly “gets”. Moments when the kids come home to freshly-baked cookies. Moments when everyone is laughing happily around a perfect Sunday dinner.

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But . . . so often all of this mothering and homemaking is wrapped, instead, squarely and securely in the messy and muddled MORTALNESS of being here. It can be full of mundane and “unheroic indignities”. It can be full of unknowns and struggles and fears. And often amidst sleep-deprivation, messy faces, and loads of laundry; amidst pregnancies alongside constant nausea, amidst unbearable anxiety over a wayward child or a kid who struggles to learn; amidst health problems; amidst depression; amidst clutter; amidst all other possible frustrations and difficulties that seem . . . so . . . not elevated; amidst all of those things, we sometimes fail to realize that we are still doing noble and glorious and beautiful work. We don't quite believe that God loves and accepts family home evenings where kids run wild and don't listen; that he is proud of our efforts to create a fun family outing even if it ends up with scraped knees, runny noses and tear-stained faces; that he supports us and weeps with us when we struggle to find joy in family life despite sickness, struggling family members and disappointment. As James E. Talmage said: often “Our eyes are so heavy, our ears so dull, that we see and hear only the things of earth. . . .” when, if our vision could be expanded (as it occasionally, is), we would see that “in our daily walk and work we are not alone, but that angels attend us wherever our duty causes us to go.” (Even when that duty entails muddy every day troubles, untidy family heartbreaks, and . . . one year-olds falling off stools while we struggle to nurse newborns.)

What we are doing is glorious work. It’s his work. Our father’s. And we are doing it all in a fallen, mortal condition. And if it isn’t always bright Instagram photos and Pinterest-worthy decorating; our faith and our brave pressing on still make it beautiful. Beautiful during the times when every thing is bright and smooth and joyous. And maybe more beautiful – more precious to God – during the frustrating times and the non-elevated times; the times when we may even feel more like Sariah – leaving every ease and comfort, suffering terror over her sons’ physical AND spiritual welfare, all while being pregnant, eating raw meat and trying to be a homemaker . . . in the wilderness. The times when our eyes are too heavy and our ears too dull to see the truth of this homemaking work – that it is eternal and that angels are with us, and that the mundane and untidy aspects of it don’t diminish – and at times maybe even add more to – those truths.

We came here. We chose this. And we’re doing it. We really are. Bravo to us!

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Shannon said...

Such a wise wise sister! I love this so much and love you so much!

Kara said...

This is an answer to prayer. And I need you tell me this every day. Mmmkaaaay? Thx. Come over. We have extra waffles.

Nancy said...

Thank you so much Shan and Kara! You are both always so good to make me feel my thoughts are valuable. Thank you. And Kara? Did you say waffles? Hope Canada doesn't require passports 'cause I'm on my way!

Marilyn said...

This was perfect. I need this told to me over and over again, too. Preferably told to me by YOU, who say it so well. I loved this: "our faith and our brave pressing on still make it beautiful. Beautiful during the times when every thing is bright and smooth and joyous. And maybe more beautiful – more precious to God – during the frustrating times and the non-elevated times." Yes!!

I also had to laugh at the "good, better, best" of dealing with a sad toddler while nursing. Oh, goodness, if I had a dollar for every time I have called out "give yourself a little kiss!!" to my screeeeeaming child because I don't want to disturb the nursing baby! (It never works, by the way.)

Montserrat Wadsworth said...

I love that James E Talmage quote! I have never heard it before. I do believe angels attend us. I have felt their presence at certain times (most notably when giving birth) but I also know they are there many times without us being aware of them. Just today in seminary we read this verse in Moses 5.

"And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost." (verse 58) The youth latched on to the idea that we can be attended to by angels in our individual lives as well and not just for preaching the gospel but when we are in particular need of help overcoming a temptation or we fear for our safety.

We are so very mortal. It can be hard to see the big picture when our mortality gets in the way. But, oh, those small glimpses of eternity! Those are just enough to keep on going.

Thank you so much for writing this Nancy!
P.S. I supplement with formula too. Henry actually gets an equal ratio of breastmilk and formula. :D

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