It was over nineteen years ago, but I still remember well those first exhausted moments after the birth of my first child. I snuggled him in my arms, so excited to meet him finally, and my heart was filled with a mixture of joy, awe, and pure panic. Mostly though I daydreamed about the future of our little family and I couldn’t wait to get to the bedtime stories, sloppy toddler kisses, and the cookie baking.
It didn't take too long though before motherhood started to get a little more complicated. There were still the joys of sleepy snuggles, contagious baby giggles, and the excitement of watching them grow and progress. But with those joys also came the challenges of painful ear infections, toddler tantrums, and juggling the needs of two, then three, then four, then five children.
Each of the five children that has come to our family has brought with them their own unique personality and set of joys and challenges. I expected the zits and the hormones and the homework woes as they grew older, but having a child face an aggressive form of cancer and another child with frequent seizures definitely were not things I dreamt about when I gazed into the eyes of each our newborn children.
I think each of us knows deep down inside that whenever life is overwhelming, we can turn to God and He will be there. Sometimes, though, when life is smoother sailing we let God slip to the back burner in the busyness that consumes our day-to-day lives.
I’ve shared this experience with you before, but I think back to that morning in January almost three years ago. I was preparing a sacrament meeting talk and spent a couple of hours that day studying the scriptures and reading general conference talks. Sometime during that study time, I suddenly became so overwhelmed with the absolute knowledge that God loved me personally and was aware of me and family. At the time I had no reason to think that that day would be any different than any other. Yet God knew. He knew the storm that laid before us and he, in a very real way, spiritually prepared me for the earth shattering phone call we received just a few hours later that my sixteen-year-old son had leukemia. And the news that came just a couple days after that that Glen had been laid off from his job.
I often think back to that day and wonder how different those next several months could have been if I had not taken the time that morning to allow myself to listen to the message that God wanted me to hear. What if I had skipped my scripture study and prayer time, as sometimes happens on busy days, and gone straight to chores and errands instead? I have no doubt that eventually I still would have felt that comforting message, but how grateful I am to have had that comfort in my heart from the earliest moments of that very difficult time in our lives.
Elder Bednar said in a recent conference:
"We are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior’s Atonement we can receive capacity and “strength beyond [our] own” 1
I testify that many times in our lives we have felt that strength beyond our own that comes from the Savior’s atonement.
Elder Bednar continued ,
“There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 1
I write this from the perspective of a mother, but what a powerful message to each of us. Whether we be a woman, man, teenager, or child...this message is universal. God is with us. He wants to take your burdens upon him. We have but to find the quiet moments in our lives that we can turn our hearts to him and truly listen. And as mothers (and fathers) we have a very real opportunity to help create those moments for our families.
This quote from Sister Beck that illustrates this point perfectly:
“Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.” 2
How is easy it is to get caught up in trying to do more, to compare ourselves with others, and to let the meaning of our lives get lost in filling the slots on the calendar….when truly all we really need is less!
A study at Harvard followed subjects for 75-years and found that future success and fulfillment in life is not predictable based on income, intelligence, or education level, but rather on the positive connections an individual has with their families. We would do better to eat dinner together as a family daily than to sign our kids up for yet another “enriching” activity that takes them away from home and will likely bear no impact on their future lives . 3
I will close today by inviting each of us to remember the example of Mary--the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. She knew from the beginning that her son was the son of God and had a glorious mission to fulfill and yet she did not allow that knowledge to overwhelm her into complacency. She embraced her role as mother and loved him and taught him and helped raise him to be the Savior of the World.
Even in the final moments of Christ’s life he spoke of his mother. He never forgot, even in His anguish, the woman who cared for Him even before she could hold Him in her arms—the earthly mother who had prepared Him for a divine mission. 4
1. Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease by David A. Bednar
2. Mothers Who Know by Julie Beck
3. The 75-year study that found the secrets to a fulfilling life: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/11/how-this-harvard-psycholo_n_3727229.html