Sunday, February 5, 2017

Water From a Rock

Tonight I had a conversation with a girl I work with. Her struggles at home brought her to the residential treatment center where I live and work. She has been here a while and just seems so resistant to changing. She feels so much pressure to be perfect but can't see how to be good enough and what's worse, she can't see a reason to care about what all the adults in her life think about what she is doing and the course she is setting for herself.

I told her a story about me to help her understand why taking constructive criticism or feedback matters. This is what I told her:

A while ago, I got some feedback that really cut to my core. I felt hopeless and inadequate. The mistakes I was making were hurting my family and might cost me my job. As I lay on my bedroom floor crying so hard my body shook and I felt exhausted from the effort, I was confronted with a choice. Either give up and believe that I could never be better than my current self or do something about it. I decided to do something about it.

I came up with a list of things I needed to do to be better. This was my list:
  • No more swearing (it makes me feel angry)
  • No unkind words about anyone whether they are present or not
  • Exercise every day
  • Eat healthier foods
After reciting my list, I told this girl that no one could have made that list for me. That I had to be the one to look inside myself and see what needed to be done. Then I told her to do that for herself. Give it some time and some thought and decide what her list is. And decide if she is satisfied with who she is and where she is going or if there is something more that she wants for herself. She went to bed after a few tears and I hope that somehow that conversation made a difference.

What is sad to me though, is that this wasn't the whole story. She didn't get the unabridged version of events. The one that gives credit where credit is due and shows where truly transformative power comes from.  The one that reveals the unspeakable power and peace of the Atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ that inspired that list. This is the real story:

A while ago, I got some feedback that really cut to my core. I felt hopeless and inadequate. The mistakes I was making were hurting my family and might cost me my job. As I lay on my bedroom floor crying so hard my body shook and I felt exhausted from the effort, I was confronted with a choice. Either give up and believe that I could never be better than my current self or do something about it. I called my dad and asked him for help. I asked him to guide me and give me the direction only someone intimately familiar with my struggles with anger could give. I told him that if I could I would take a knife and cut out the rotten part of myself. The part that continually broke and fell into a path of torment and fear--I would take a knife and carve from my body this infection. He cried with me and loved me. Showed me the love patterned after the love of a Heavenly Father perfectly aware of our struggles. Of our desires and dreams. And then he told me to read Moroni chapter seven. I hung up with my dad after he spoke these words, "You asked God to help you and this is how He is doing it. You may not like it and it most certainly hurts, but He is helping you."

I read Moroni chapter seven and lingered on verse forty-five. The one that God wrote just for me. "And charity suffereth long and is kind. Enviety not, Seeketh not her own, is not puffed up and is not easily provoked, speaketh no evil. Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth. Beareth all things, believest all things, hopeth all things endureth all things."

That verse raised my prostrate body to my knees. Lifted my forlorn voice to Heaven and raised my downcast eyes to God. I pleaded with Him. Begged Him to heal me. I pleaded for His mercy and His Grace. I cast my burden at His feet and asked that He show me a better way. His answer was swift and clear. His answer was a list of things I needed to do to access His Grace.

This was His list:
  • No more swearing (speaking evil, being puffed up, rejoicing in iniquity)
  • No unkind words about anyone whether they are present or not (Speaking evil, seeking my own, rejoicing in the truth)
  • Exercise every day (Suffering long, enduring all things)
  • Eat healthier foods (Enduring all things)
  • No anger with my family. Ever. (Bearing all things, not being provoked)
  • Daily fervent prayer (Hoping all things, rejoicing in the truth)
  • Daily scripture study (Rejoicing in the truth)
  • Do bedtime with my children every day.
  • Look my children in the eyes and love them
Later that week, as I was having my daily scripture study I read in Alma chapter eight about a wicked people who "would not hearken unto the words of Alma" (God's prophet). "Nevertheless, Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that He would pour out His Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance. Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him...we do not believe in such foolish traditions...and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him and caused that he should be cast out of their city...And it came to pass that while he was journeying thither, being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of came to pass that while Alma was thus weighed down with sorrow, behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him, saying: Blessed art thou Alma...And behold, I am sent to command thee that thou return to the city of Ammonihah, and preach again ...Yea, say unto them, except they repent the Lord God will destroy them.

As I read those words, the Spirit spoke clearly to my soul that I was like those people. God had sent His messengers to me many times to tell me how to change but I refused. I withstood His words, reviled Him and  caused that He should leave my heart. And even more than that, I had received His promised blessings and heard His guidance many times, yet I would not humble myself enough to receive the fullness of His help. And just as I was like those people, God will not suffer me to refuse Him any more. I must repent or He cannot stop the necessary consequences of my anger. Those feelings and impressions struck me deeply and I felt determined to keep my resolve, to remember my utter dependence on my Savior. To remember that without Him I will undoubtedly fail. And by the same token, with Him, He will raise me to incredible heights.

That day was almost two months ago. Since then, I have slipped and gotten angry. But in those two months I have leaned on Him and He has brought me closer to Him. He has lifted me up and changed my heart. I love my God! I love my Savior! I know they love me, they know me and want me to make it. And I will--I know that He has done more than carve from my chest an ugly infection. With power He has healed that infection, and He can take my imperfect being, the one prone to stray from Him and bind me to Him. He brought water forth from a rock and He can bring forth works worthy of praise from me, for He is mighty to save.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Baby Boy!

I am so sorry for the long absence. But as I'm sure you assumed or knew, or whatever, I had my precious little boy and I made it to 38 weeks and 1 day! It was a marvelous, perfect experience. All through my very fast, three hour labor I kept thinking over and over to myself, "this is real, this is so real. My baby is healthy, he's allowed to come now, this is good and this is real!" You wouldn't believe how different it is to birth in fear for your child and to birth in anticipation of a healthy child.

My mom was there with me and it was so perfect. Her hands were cool and comforting, just like they always were when I was little. She has such soft hands. The skin is smooth and she has slender fingers. I could feel the roundness of her wedding ring right where it has always been, not quite at the base of her left ring finger as I pressed my face into her hands during contractions. It was so magical the way her hands found me when I needed them. I love her! I needed her there.

When I woke her up at midnight to tell her it was time to go to the hospital she urgently asked me if I really wanted her there. It was a beautiful moment for me to let her know that, yes, I wanted and needed her there. She made the experience so complete for me. I felt so good showing her that the gift of life she gave to me, I was now sharing with my little boy and I owed my gift to her.

It was so incredible to shift from focusing so completely from desperately keeping the baby in to joyfully welcoming him to the world. Mr. P. and I both felt surprised that all the sudden we weren't "in trouble" for having a baby. I am so grateful for his willingness to support me in labor. He was so present and focused for me and it was wonderful. It was so clear how important it was for him to help me do the work of a mother, creating the first moments of our child's life in a sacred and beautiful way. I am so grateful that we agree on the potential for birth to be a time to build and strengthen our relationship. The whole time I just communicated with Mr. P and he communicated with everyone else. It was great to know that he understood me and what I wanted. He is the best.

We were offered a room equipped with a birthing tub and we took it. After about ten minutes of hard fast contractions at the hospital I told Mr. P that I wanted to get in that thing. It looked good! So I did get in that thing and an hour and a half later I had an unplanned water birth. To be quite honest, the idea of water birth to that point had never appealed to me, but once I got in that jacuzzi of love, there was no getting out. It felt amazing to float during contractions. Now that I've given birth in water, I can't imagine doing it any other way. It was awesome!

The craziest thing was pushing out that kid's head and shoulders. I pushed two or three times with Frances and once her head came, her shoulders just sort of slipped out. But a normal sized baby? Wow. You actually have to try to get those shoulders out! What the heck is up with that? After I delivered his head, I had my hand on his head and I thought, man, I don't know if I have it in me to push hard enough to get the rest out! And when I finally did, I was pooped! It was really demanding. My midwife scooped him up and lifted him out of the water and put him right on my chest. It was really incredible. I was so glad to sit in the warm water with my new little one and take a break.

A few minutes later though, Mr. P. had to lift me out of the water because I really had no energy left to do it myself. I felt like my body would never move again. Somehow though, I walked across the room with the baby in my arms and got in the bed.

I couldn't believe he was there! I couldn't believe that I was holding him and they weren't taking him out of my arms. He smelled amazing. Mr. P. was a little grossed out by the goo that was still on him, but I loved it. I never saw Frances that way, they scrubbed her off before I saw her, so I was soaking it all in with my little man.

So now he's here and he's doing great. I need to think of a blog name for him. The real one was hard enough (story for another blog post). Thank you everyone for all your prayers, thoughts and concerns on my behalf, he is a miracle and I am so grateful to be his mother. Thank you thank you!!!

****GRAPHIC ALERT**** Want to know why all water birth photos of moms holding their babies are in black and white? Because after that baby comes out, the water looks like the Nile while Moses was terrorizing Pharaoh. And the only person who would tolerate sitting in water like that is a mom who literally cannot lift herself out of it, and is completely oblivious because of the sweet little thing she's holding in her's a little distracting. And really, after pushing out a baby, who has time for getting grossed out by floaties?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Birthing Class

One of my absolute favorite parts of any movie is when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are being total stink buckets at that birthing class in "Baby Mama"

I think it would be so much fun to go and make all sorts of inappropriate comments. Of course, Mr. P would probably reign me in. He's good like that. But honestly, doesn't this look like so much fun? (I love the Tattooed dad who can't help laughing).

I've never been to a birthing class. Frances came too early to attend one last time and then, well, bed rest isn't exactly conducive to getting out of the house. So I'll just stick to watching "Baby Mama" and Jimmy Kimmel.

There's also this:
Happy Birthing!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Boy Names

Have I ever mentioned on here that I'm having a boy? I don't think I have. It should be worth noting though, that I think the reason God has allowed me to stay pregnant this long is because he doesn't have a name.

We have two names and they were the only two that we ever came up with for this kid. Mr. P really likes one and doesn't feel too hot about the other. I'm ambivalent about the one he likes and am really rooting for the one he doesn't like. So pretty much we can't agree and we both really don't care for the other's preference.

So now I just feel like I don't like either one and I'm willing to go for a third. Except I can't think of anything! Your input is honestly and warmly appreciated.

--Stumped Momma

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mommies Aren't Perfect

A friend of mine posted something on Facebook yesterday about accidentally hurting her little one's feelings and the lingering guilt she is feeling for doing so. It reminded me of a story.

Once when I was about four or five I was driving in the car with my mom. We had just pulled into the garage and I did something naughty (I can't remember what, but I think I called her a rude name or something). My mom got upset and reacted strongly, probably more strongly than the situation required. I was so hurt by her reaction that I was just sitting in the back seat, sobbing uncontrollably.

Then next thing I knew my mom whipped open my door and scooped me up in her arms, cuddling me and telling me how much she loved me. (Now I'm crying all over myself, remembering how special that moment was--pregnant). She kept saying how sorry she was and that she loved me and I put my little four year old arms around her neck and told her I loved her too.

Since becoming a mom that memory means so much more to me. I hope my mom doesn't mind me sharing it. To me though, it's a reminder that moms aren't perfect and we mess up, but the most important thing is to admit our mistakes to our kids and to love them up as much as we can. I have always known that my mom is my biggest cheerleader. She loves me so much and that love is so important!

I've learned something important as a mom from that experience as well. There are times that I get mad and lose my temper but when I tell Frances that I'm sorry for shouting and for getting angry, it is such a special feeling to hear her say, "It's okay, Mommy, I love you too." A child's forgiveness really is great motivation for doing better. And I think it helps Frances learn the importance of sincere apologies and recognizing how our actions affect other people.

We're all learning here and in all honesty, adults make more mistakes than kids. I hope one of those mistakes isn't failing to say sorry and ask for forgiveness.

Love you Mom!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Few Awesome Things About Pregnancy

It's Sunday! And Sunday is a wonderful day for thinking about all the good things in life. Right now my life completely revolves around being pregnant so I'd like to share a few awesome things about pregnancy.

  1. Baby Movements-- It was so exciting when I felt this little guy move for the first time. I had forgotten how truly magical it is to feel a little nudge inside of me, confirming that there is a precious little life in there. Feeling that connection is even more incredible the second time around because now I know how much I am just going to die with love for this little person! Anticipating the mother child relationship makes me almost giddy!
  2. Food-- I think I can really say that food is 100% more fulfilling when you're pregnant. When you've just been agonizing all day about how much you want a strawberry and then you bite into one, the effect can be a Mormon girl's version of highly intoxicating, addicting, and indescribably joyous.
  3. Naps-- Naps are beautiful whilst carrying a child. You lie down and snuggle up to your armada of pillows and next thing you know, it's been an hour and a half and the universe has righted itself.
  4. Deferential Treatment-- I don't get out much on bed rest but when I do people practically trip over themselves to be nice. Here in Kentucky a lot of people smoke (we grow tobacco here) but when they see that baby bump coming they politely step out of the way or apologize for their smoke if it's too late. When I used to go to the grocery store people would move out of my way and smile, gather up their kids so I could get through, the clerks would almost always offer to help me out to the car, and if I really wanted to I could ask that amazing produce navigator for her perfectly selected watermelon and she would probably give it to me. But I wouldn't do that--not until I was at least 7 months along, right? Right.
  5. Midwife Appointments-- Honestly, I think the nicest healthcare workers on the planet are midwives and their office staff. They can make you feel like gaining two pounds a week is the coolest thing that ever happened. And when they stick you in the bum with your weekly progesterone shot, they will make you laugh while they giterdone. But not too hard.
  6. Baby Projects-- Now what could possibly be more fun that finishing a baby quilt, hanging a mobile over a crib or folding perfect little boy outfits into a clean dresser? Only holding that baby and snuggling him all over can eclipse all the preparations for his arrival. And I just can't wait!
Happy Sabbath everyone!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bed Rest Survival Tips

Twenty-five days on bed rest and I sure hope I've learned something. With twenty-three days to go, I think I've got a few good ideas for how to make it through to the end.

First: Location, location, location!
  • If your doctor will let you sit up or be reclined instead of totally flat in bed, establish your spot. I moved my glider rocking chair from Frances' room to the living room close to the kitchen so that I can see almost all the traffic around my house. If Frances is playing in her room, I can see and hear her, if someone is visiting I don't have to move for them to visit with me, and if there's something happening in the kitchen then I'm far enough away to be too tempted to interfere and close enough to talk to whoever is in there.
Second:  Get ready for the day
  • You're pregnant and on bed rest and so there's definitely a lowered standard, but doing a few things every morning makes a big difference. Brush and style your hair. Two words: dry shampoo. I'm only supposed to shower a couple times a week, so yeah. 
  • Get out of your pajamas. Yoga pants are fine, just don't spend the day wallowing in the same clothes you woke up in.
  • Do your face. That way when people come over you look reasonably put together and they'll actually believe you when you tell them you're doing well.
Third: Find some projects to keep you busy
  • A few things you can do where you are can eat up a lot of time. I've made some stick horses, a quilt, a Boppy pillow cover, a changing table cover, painted some blocks to decorate my basement bathroom, written a bunch of blog posts (as you know), and read a few books. The days that I spend just vegging on the computer are the worst. It's really not a pick me up sort of thing to do.
Fourth: Invite people over
  • This has been really nice for Frances. When people come over she gets excited to spend time with their kids and it can be nice to just talk to someone. This is also a good motivation for getting ready for the day. I find that after people leave I feel more energized and optimistic for the rest of the day.
Fifth: Pick your outings wisely
  • I have a weekly doctors appointment and on those days I find one other thing I want to do while I'm out. This helps break up the weeks and reminds me that the world is still turning outside my living room.
  • On Saturday I had to choose between a church party and going to a show jumping competition. I knew that I would be very tempted at the party to get up and socialize more than I should, but at the show jumping I knew I would just sit and enjoy the event. It was really fun and I definitely enjoyed myself.
Bed rest isn't exactly a walk in the park, but there are certainly worse things that could happen to a person. I've really found that planning and having things to look forward to makes the time go by faster and helps me to not give in to my boredom and break the rules.