Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Nurturing Doesn't Come Naturally

In The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states that, " Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

That word " nurture" bothered me for a really long time.

I did not see myself as an innately nurturing person. As a young woman I didn't really have a desire to be a mother. I hated to babysit and didn't really enjoy being around children. I remember once having a conversation with one of my high school friends in the corner of the drama room. I made her promise that if I ever chose to be a stay-at-home mom that she would hunt me down, hit me over the head with a bat, and remind me that there was nothing I dreaded more than being tied down to a baby and a husband. I was certain that I just wasn't cut out for motherhood, and that my talents would be better used else where.

Then I had a baby.

And all of a sudden I was filled with a crazy, intense love. It was a type love I'd never experienced before. It didn't manifest itself like other types of love I had experienced; it wasn't giddiness, tears, excitement, or passion it was just... fierce.

I loved that little baby like I loved myself; completely exasperated and critical of him one moment and then head over heels in crazy love the next. That kind of love scared me and fascinated me at the same time. I found myself pouring everything I had into him--my time, my body, my thoughts, my dreams, everything. Yet I still didn't feel like a nurturer.

I felt like the same old me, but with a baby.

Then, slowly, I began to see that nurturing wasn't just something that was going to magically happen to me just because I had a baby. It was something I was going to have to learn. 

It is funny how I had assumed that nurturing was something that was suppose to come natural when I didn't expect fathering to come naturally to my husband. In the Family Proclamation it also says, " Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. "

Presiding, providing the necessities of life, and protecting are not things that come naturally to all men. Some men are more talented or adept at say providing, when another might struggle with that. Some men may be naturally talented at presiding or protecting, while for other men that may be something they have to consciously work at. The responsibilities of fathers are certainly not things that just happen because they are male. They are things that take work and time to develop correctly.

I think the same is true of nurturing in women. I know many wonderful nurturers, but there are only one or two that I would say are "naturally" that way. Most of the women I know whose nurturing skills I admire have developed it over time. And none of their nurturing looks or feels the same.

I believe that, in our eternal identity as women, we are created after the image of our Heavenly Mother and thus have inherited some of her divine aptitude for nurturing. Yet, just because we have those seeds within us, doesn't mean that they will grow without work and effort.

If someone has really musical parents, they have probably inherited good "music genes". But if they don't ever pick up a musical instrument and work hard to master it they will never become a musician, good or bad. I think the same thing is true of nurturing. Our heavenly genetics give women "the nurturing" gene, an innate aptitude and ability to nurture the human family. It is deep within our souls and housed within our bodies. Yet just having that "gene" doesn't mean that nurturing will come naturally or that one will even have the desire to.

I know that for me nurturing is a challenge. It is something I have to work at daily-- okay lets be honest-- hourly. But just because it doesn't come easily to me isn't any reason to run away from it or limit my opportunities to practice it. If it is hard for me that is all the more reason to embrace it and learn to become better at it.

I think that this was one of the reasons that the direction to homeschool my children came so strongly. Homeschooling forces me to be with my children-- to think about them, to plan for them, and tests my nurturing skills to the max. Homeschooling has turned my heart to my children in a way that doesn't come naturally for me at all. If I had it my way I'd be off running an NGO, teaching in a university, or having some sort of career, but that wasn't the path the Lord had for me. He knew that nothing would challenge me more than staying at home with my children and learning how to nurture them.

And he was right.

I have never done anything harder (or more rewarding) than staying home with my children.

I love them with that raw fierce mother love, but I sometimes struggle with wanting to be with them, or wanting to nurture them. There are days when nothing sounds more appealing than sending them off to boarding school for a year. But I don't. Instead I let them fill my life with their noise, their love, their excitement, their arguments, their tears, and their joy.

I feel like motherhood has been my crucible. The place where all my weaknesses-- my pride, my vanity, my selfishness-- has been exposed and is slowly getting burned away. It is often a painful process, but every once in awhile I get a glimpse of the woman I am becoming and I am speechless.

She is beautiful... and she is a nurturer.

She is learning how to let herself be hugged and snuggled when she'd rather be by herself. She is learning how to slow down and not pass by the small things. She is learning how to answer the same question for the 1,000th time with patience. She is learning how to pray for guidance and how to act on promptings. She is learning how to listen and how to curb her tongue. She is learning how to look on the heart and to see people for who they really are. She is learning to love children, of all ages. She is learning how to sacrifice, how to serve, and how to put another's needs above her own.

Mostly, she is learning how to love like the Savior loves.

And that certainly hasn't come naturally.

How have you learned how to nurture?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Being Called Woman

"Behold thy Son" by Lester Nielsen

Several times in the New Testament Christ calls his mother, Mary, by the term "woman." He does it at the start of his ministry, when he performs his first miracle at the wedding in Canaan. When she expresses concern that there is no wine he responds,"Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come." (John 2:4). Then at the end of his ministry, as he was dying on the cross and his hour has come,  he looked down at his mother and exclaimed, "Woman, behold thy son!" (John 19:26)

In modern English the use of the word "woman" sounds derogatory and coarse, or as one commentary I read said, "Like a motorcycle biker calling his girl." Yet, Jesus obviously uses this word with respect for his mother. In fact, he uses the word more as a title than a pet name or a term of endearment. He calls her "woman" much in the same way that we might call someone "lady." To us the word "lady" indicates a woman of nobility, influence and power which is what the word "woman" would have meant to Mary when Christ called her by it. Go back and re- read those scriptures in John again but this time substituting the word "lady" for the word "woman." Can you see and feel how that illuminates what Christ is saying to her?

There is so much meaning tied up in that one little word... woman. Yes, Mary is his mother. Yes, she is his friend. Yes, she is his follower... but mostly she is a Woman. It is not a coincidence that he addressed  her by this title at both the start of his ministry and at the end of his ministry. He recognized in her the nobility, power, influence, and glory that there is in being a woman- and even in his final moments on the cross--there was no greater title he could call her by.

"Christ King of the Jews" by Mark Mabry

Another interesting place where the word "woman" is used as a title is in Alma 19. The wife of King Lamoni approached Ammon with great faith, asking him if he could tell her if her husband was dead or not. When he examines Lamoni and finds that he is not dead, but "sleepeth in God" and will rise in the morning she believes him without question. Ammon is so impressed by her  faith that he states, "I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites." (Alma 19:10) It is easier to see here, where Ammon is a servant addressing a queen, how the word "woman" is not a belittling term but rather one of honor and deference.

She is again called by the title of woman when, in Alma 19: 12,  Lamoni wakes up. It reads,  "...he [Lamoni] stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God and blessed art thou. For as sure as thou livest, behold I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth and be born of a woman,." 

"Lamoni" by James H. Fullmer
The parallel here to Mary being called "woman" and the wife of King Lamoni being called "woman" is powerful. Lamoni has just seen his Redeemer, God of the entire world. Yet, not only has he  seen God but he has learned that God himself will be born of a woman. From Lamoni's exclamation to his wife "blessed art thou" we  see that Lamoni is recognizing, perhaps for the first time in his life, the worth of women. He now knows that even God himself will have enough faith in a woman to come to earth as a baby, to have her create, nurture, and teach him. He is seeing his wife with new eyes, recognizing the exalted role that women play in God's plan. He truly is seeing and understanding for the first time that being a woman is not inferior, but one of extreme importance and even, as he tells his wife, is  "blessed".

Obviously this new perspective was a bit more than either one of them could handle. Alma 19:13 says that after these words both of them were sunk down with joy and were "overpowered by the Spirit." I guess sometimes new ideas that shake your worldview take some getting use to!

I have been pondering on these scriptures in Alma and in the New Testament for the last few weeks. The more I reflect on them, the more I begin to see that my identity as a daughter of God -- as a woman-- is far grander than I currently comprehend. There is something innately beautiful and powerful in the female body and female soul that garners respect. Something within us that is innately noble and makes men rise to their feet in honor.

This isn't to say that women should be put on a pedestal or that men are in some way inferior. I am simply saying that there is so much more to us than we realize. So much meaning, so much power tied up in that one little word.... woman.

There are perhaps few titles more grand.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Face Cards: Yea or Nay?

My husband was doing a search on tonight and happened across this article that my grandfather wrote for the New Era in 1984. My grandfather was a great man but I hardly new him because he had severe Parkinson's disease for most of my life. He died when I was nine. It was a really sweet treat to stumble across these words of wisdom from him.

It was also nice to discover the reason why my parents never allowed us to have face cards in our home. My family are BIG game players (it is our love language) and so it always seemed a bit strange to me that face cards were off limits. I have carried over the tradition of not having face cards in our home with my little family, but until I read this I didn't really know why.

I don't think there is anything inherently evil in face cards, but I do think my Grandpa has some good points.

“How should I feel about playing cards?”

Answer/Brother Boyd R. Thomas 

This question is really a double one. It may be asked either as “How should I feel about playing games with cards?” or “How should I feel about playing cards?” There is a substantial difference between playing games which use cards to give directions and instructions and playing games which use the ancient, double-faced cards, sometimes called “playing cards.” The nature of the cards used is an important distinction.

The playing of games in the family setting—both the active, outdoor type and the more sedentary, indoor kind—I view as great teaching aids. By this means personality traits may be developed and children learn acceptable ways to interact with others. For example, it has been important to me to teach my children how to handle defeat or disappointment. Games have been invaluable for this.

The two most common criticisms of card playing have been, first, that it is a waste of time, and second, that it tends to end in gambling. Both criticisms are valid because, while extremes, they too often occur. Writing at a time before the advent of excessive TV viewing, which is the modern time waster, and before the coming of extensive state-sponsored lotteries, which today enhance the tendency to gamble, some of our General Authorities have spoken out against card playing. Let us consider what President Joseph F. Smith said:

“While a simple game of cards in itself may be harmless, it is a fact that by immoderate repetition it ends in an infatuation for chance schemes, in habits of excess, in waste of precious time, in dulling and stupor of the mind, and in the complete destruction of religious feeling. … There is the grave danger that lurks in persistent card playing, which begets the spirit of gambling, of speculation and that awakens the dangerous desire to get something for nothing.

“One’s character may be determined in some measure by the quality of one’s amusements. Men and women of industrious business-like, and thoughtful habits care little for frivolous pastimes, for pleasures that are sought for their own sake. It is not easy to imagine that leading men in the Church would find any pleasure that was either inspiring or helpful at the card table” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 329).

Elder John A. Widtsoe has given a useful perspective:
“It must be added that relaxation from the regular duties of the day is desirable and necessary for human well-being. Wholesome games of recreation are advocated by all right-minded people. Moreover, the … objections [to card playing] are not directed against the many and various card games on the market not employing the usual ‘playing cards.’ Most of these furnish innocent and wholesome recreation, and many are really instructive. It is true that they may be played to excess, but in fact it seldom happens. This is true even when such cards are used in games imitating those with ‘playing cards.’ It is true that such cards may be used for gambling purposes, but in fact it is almost never done. The pall of evil seems to rest upon the ‘playing cards’ handed down to us from antiquity” (Evidences and Reconciliations, Murray & Gee, 1943, pp. 218–19).
While it is best to avoid the use of “playing cards,” my personal experiences indicate that our family has enjoyed many benefits from playing games with cards. At a time when amusements are generally enjoyed alone, for example TV viewing and video game playing, we in our family like to play card games together. It has been both unifying and has provided the arena for much give and take. All in all, playing card games has given us many delightful moments.

Yes it has.

Especially Rook

Oh, we play mean games of Rook. 

You'd be proud Grandpa.

Okay,  now let the debate begin! 
How do you feel about face cards? Do you allow them in your home?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Things for Friday, Christmas and Goat Love Triangle Edition



This was our first year having Christmas away from family, and while I did really miss them, it was fun to be able to start some of our own traditions. Ever since college I have had this idea to do a "Shepherd's Dinner" for Christmas Eve where we would all dress up like shepherds watching their flocks, eat on the floor, and eat simple foods that people may have eaten in Jesus' time. And this year we got to do it! We spread out the "Indian Blanket" (an old wool blanket we've had since I was little), pulled out the electric candles Jon's Grandma gave us, and ate olives, cheese, crackers, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs, grape juice, bread, and olive oil with balsamic vinegar. For some of the foods like grape juice, bread, vinegar, and olives, I found scriptures that talked about those foods. For example, I read the story of Jesus turning water to wine, the bread of life analogy, when Jesus was given vinegar on the cross, and (briefly) the analogy of the olive tree in Jacob 5. It was nice to  focus more on the life of the Savior and the kids-- surprising-- were really excited about it all. It brought a really sacred feel to our Christmas Eve celebrations, even though Jon threatened to bring the sheep inside to make it more authentic!

Christmas day the kids opened their gifts from Santa in the morning (though Asher is always most excited just to see if Santa ate his cookies!) and then after breakfast we got dressed and went to church. Last year we went to Catholic Mass, and it was a really great experience, but this year we had met the pastor of the local Lutheran church and thought it would be nice to attend his services. It was really different, but I loved worshiping Christ on his birth day. I think that going to Church on Christmas is one of my new favorite traditions. It sort of made me laugh at my post where I asked for ideas on how to make Christmas more Christ centered... umm go to church! It doesn't get more Christ centered than that.


This little girl has been a handful lately.

People keep asking me, "Is she a good baby?" Most of the time I just don't even know how to respond to that one. But if by some chance I had it altogether this is what I would say, "Of course she is a good baby, she is only four months old. How could she not be good!"  But if you mean does she let me sleep for more than four hours a night, does she constantly want to be held, does she rarely take naps longer than 45 minutes,  then NO. But that doesn't make her a bad baby. She is a wonderful baby... just a handful." 

But rarely do I seem to have it all together, so at least I've vented it all out  here. Thanks.

Really, she is a fussy baby. I wouldn't call her colicky, but after Abraham (who was the easiest baby in the world)  she seems like a challenge. Most of the time the only way we can ever get her to take a nap is to put her in the swing and play white noise on the iphone. Which, I will say, is much better than when Asher was a baby. He was also a pretty fussy baby and Jon and I would regularly put him to bed by running a blow dryer in his room. We burnt out two blow dryers in four months. The iphone is so much better. I'd take a picture, but it is currently snuggled against Tabitha's ear, and if I move it she will wake up.

But you can imagine.

I am pretty sure my kids are going to grow up thinking that to get babies to go to sleep you need to swaddle them, stick their binky in, and play ocean noises on your phone. In fact, my cousin and her kids were visiting us a few weeks ago and we laughed when her daughter wrapped up her dolly, put her in the swing and then put her toy cell phone next to her baby's ear!

 Oh dear.


I haven't posted about homeschool for awhile and so I thought I'd give an update.

It is going great!

Most of the time.

We started school back up this week because we took the week before Christmas off in order to focus on making Christmas gifts and such. I started to notice that without the order and routine of school our house was utter and complete chaos. By the Friday after Christmas the kids were begging me if we could do school again and on Monday when I told them we were having school that day... they cheered. It  made me feel like a super hero.

Asher has been doing awesome with his reading and math. He was having a hard time blending sounds together to make words, but our supervising teacher (which is required in Iowa) suggested I make sound flip books for him. I found this wonderful template for free and Asher loved them. I had him draw pictures instead of using the ones she provides and that really motivated him. After finishing all of them he moved on to reading the BOB books and the readers for our reading curriculum. It is so exciting to see him grasp the idea of reading and to get excited about it. Teaching him to read has really been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done as a mother... perhaps because the results are so noticeable!

Rose mostly plays during most of our school time, but this week we started doing a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree. Everyday we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and then add another letter to her tree. She is a very auditory learner and so the story has been a good approach with her. We've probably read that book about 100 times but she still loves it. I am hoping that she will have the whole thing memorized by the time we are done!

Other than that we have been playing math games and learning about molecules. I got a wonderful book about Albert Einstein from the library (did you know he never went to college!) and it got the kids fascinated about atoms, so we have been doing lots of experiments with water and air. Yesterday we got a jar of water and watched what happened when you put a drop of food coloring in it. We talked about how water is very "friendly" and likes to latch on to things and pull them apart. They had a lot of fun experimenting with that and then we got curious what would happen in different temperatures of water. So we got a glass of hot water, tap water, and ice water and watched how the food coloring diffused at different rates. Here is a picture of the kids drinking the colored water afterwards... they thought that was really funny.

Overall, I feel like our homeschool has been going really well. I think the only thing that my kids are really missing out on is recess. Somedays I feel really bad knowing that if they were in public school they would be required to go outside and play for at least sometime each day. But when it is cold outside I have such a hard time dragging all the babies out there to play. I keep telling myself we will just make up for in the Spring :)

Speaking of cold, the HIGH on Monday is suppose to be -8 degrees. Brrrrrr.... and welcome to Iowa I guess!


We have been having quite the love triangle going on out in our pasture. We never did get Little Red, the goat, a girlfriend and lately we are sort of regretting that. Cutie Pie, the ewe, has been... um how to say it delicately... flirtatious....and has been attracting the attention of both the ram and the goat. Weird. There have been some epic battles taking place between the two boys battling for the... um...hand.... of the fair lady. So far it seems like Little Red, by virtue of his horns, has been winning out. This has been making Jon really upset because we want a lamb in the spring...not a geep.

We have been trying to separate them when Cutie Pie is...flirtatious...but sometimes the goat will leap the fence to get at her! Jon, in a fit of fury, even taped foam and a bike helmet to Little Red's horns to give Solomon, the ram, an advantage. I don't think it helped, and boy did he look goofy. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of it, but you can see the remnants of it on his horns in the picture above. We have been trying to keep them apart as much as we can but the goat always seems to have the upper hand. Jon has been really fired up about it and one day just about threw the goat over the fence when he saw Cutie Pie snuggled up against him.

Poor Solomon.

We are rooting for you, and hopefully you've had enough alone time without that pesky goat to win your lady back...and give us some lambs in the spring. 

So I made a decision about Instagram. I think I am still going to keep my account private, that may change in the future, but right now that is what feels right. Besides, I am really afraid I would get totally addicted to it. I need to set some sort of boundary with it. But, as long as your profile pictures don't look too creepy, you are welcome to request to follow me. My account name is hltfarrell.

Have a wonderful weekend!