RS Unity Talk

The key note address for our RS night of unity and sisterhood. 

I have a very expansive view of the power of Relief society.  I believe that when Relief Society groups function as God intended them to, it has power to advance, progress and uplift not only its members, but their families, their ward and stake,  community, nation and world. It is an eternal organization with eternal aims. Our RS general presidency recently modified the wording of the written purpose of RS. Tonight we are going to be focusing on one section, specifically the wording “Work in Unity”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has told us: “No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. … He loves each of us—insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. … He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other.” 9

Christ said “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.”

Paul taught: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? And if they were all one member, where were the body? “ 1 Corinth 12

We are all needed in God’s great kingdom, and we all need to be different! There is no stamp for a Mormon woman! Tonight we are gathering to learn about one another, to support one another, and to open up to one another. The adversary encourages us to discount the positions of others, to criticize, make fun or just plain ignore the ideas, lifestyles, and opinions different from our own.

Joseph Smith, however, described himself as a “disturber” of the adversary’s kingdom. He said, “It seems as though the adversary was aware … that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom.” 16

We want, in fact we need to be a group of women who are disturbers of current trends and ways of thinking. We need to buck the trend of being divisive, confrontational, judgmental, critical. And instead we need to rise up as a group of sisters who listen, find common ground, and seek understanding and show respect when little common ground is found.

We each have infinite worth, not because of what we do, how we look, what we own, but because of who we are. We are daughters of God and He has infinite love for us, simply because we are His. Tonight when the thought starts to creep into your mind “Oh, she does X, I could never do X. I wish I was more like X. I’m not as good as X. . .” Stop those thoughts and replace them with “I have infinite worth. She has infinite worth. I am enough. She is enough. The Lord loves me so much he died for me, he died for us. The Lord loves me for who I am, and for who she is and through him we can be anything we want to be.”

In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Moving

Tom and I have been talking about moving a lot these last few months. With applications and interviews for fellowship positions occurring, we’ve been forced to face the future. We love so many things about living in Seattle, but different training opportunities for Tom and a lower cost of living are forcing us to look else where. The thought of relocating is always followed by a mixed bag of emotions for me. I love novelty, and the thought of exploring a new city/area excites me. There are things about Seattle that I wish were different (namely the lack of sunshine for much of the year.) So the thought of living some place sunnier thrills me. But when I move past the niceties of those changes, and face the other realities I’m brought to tears by all I will miss when we move from here: dear friends, a wonderful  church family, and frequent visits to and from my parents and younger sisters. Then there is the home we’ve built here- the slide and fort out back, the raspberry plot that is finally producing abundantly, my perennial beds that are finally filling out, an organized home where everything has its place. All theses things take years to establish and the thought of starting again. . .

Already thoughts of what to take and what to leave have kept me up at night. Do we just sell it all and start afresh? We’d save thousands in moving expenses. But then, would we find ourselves in a new place, with a whole host of things to acquire? Or do we bring along the things we’ve come to enjoy, making the transition less severe? The minimalist side of me gets giddy with the thought of lightning our load considerably, but the practical side knows that much of the things we have, we use, and re-acquiring them would be burdensome.

Then I’ll stay up late looking at housing options in the places we’re considering, which throws open a whole new list of questions. How big of a house do we really need? Do our kids really need their own bedrooms? What length of commute is ideal? How much should we spend on a house? Would we be okay living in a townhouse without a yard? Do we have it in us to renovate another house? Maybe we’d love living in a track neighborhood with a neighborhood pool and playground. Or maybe I want to homestead.  I’ll try to explore each option in my head, predicting ramifications, and puzzling over how each choice would effect our family.

Whenever it gets too daunting, I’ll project myself 30 years. Life will be  more interesting to look back on if we mix it up every several years. Experiencing a new part of the country, with a different culture, and different demands will change us, and shape us in new ways. We’ll be able to relate and connect with a larger group of people. We’ll have a wider range of experiences. We’ll be more complex and hopefully interesting. We’ll widen our sphere of influence.

At these moments of decision and change, I’m ever more grateful for the gift of the spirit that blesses us with peace.

 

A full heart

The previous post was written over a month ago. I just published it. That’s how things seem to work around here. I rarely get to finish what I’m working on, and not because I’m absent minded but rather because more important things step in. Writing this, I realize, I’m really proud of how well I step aside from projects to help people. For years a favorite quote from a favorite man was posted by my computer:

“Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved.” – Thomas S. Monson

I’m a focused finisher by nature. I like to start early, end early and think through all the details. These tendencies are often a thorn in the flesh as a mother. Interruptions are continual, and change is the only constant. It’s is why so many Mom’s say they are “loosing their minds.” I never lost my keys before I had kids. But now it’s becoming an all too common occurrence. I’m forever lugging too many bags, holding a toddler by the hand, and balancing a baby on my hip all while trying to finger keys. Too often setting them down for convenience, only to forget where that “convenient place” was. I’ve found them twice in the carseat with Chiara- after looking for 10 minutes.

That aside, tonight my heart is very full. And I have some mothering moments I want to record.

When we decided to put Chiara in the guest room, I was concerned that the room couldn’t fit a chair to nurse in. I guess I’ll just sit on the bed, I’d thought. Looking back it couldn’t have been a better decision. I never nursed lying down with the boys. So, I didn’t realize the luxury I was providing myself by having a queen sized bed in the nursery. It’s become one of my favorite parts of the day, lying there, cozily with my daughter in the morning, her breath on my chest. I run my hands through her thin silky hair, or we play with each others fingers. She’ll break to chat and smile and then continue with grateful contentment. Nursing is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Doing it lying down removes any sense of duty or chore. It’s a time of powerful bonding.  Sometimes Anders will join us, cozying in under Chiara’s “soft blanket”- the quilt I made her with the minky backing. He’ll rub my arm and whisper sweetly in my ear “I love you so much, Mom.”

The woman of focus and finish that I was six years ago could have never imagined the joy of these morning rituals. So while I mourn that girl who rose early to run three miles every morning before studying her scripture for an hour, I’m pleased to be a mother who savors her children.

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I’m trying some new approaches with homeschool this month. In December, Scotter and I were both pretty burned out. There were several rough weeks, and the suggestion to send Scotter to public school in January was discussed. As Tom and I considered the problems I realized I was stripping Scotter of much of the things I kept him home for- more exploration, more free play, more outdoor time. So I’m trying to restart with more playfulness. Last semester, I skipped a lot of the supplemental activities in our reading book, for example- feeling they would take too much time. This week, we had a blast playing the version of pictionary suggested. Instead of getting up-in-arms when Scotter wanted to change the game, I went with it- which resulted in a more writing, reading, and drawing from him (which is the goal!) We had a blast making a book about parties- he dictated a story, drew coloring pages, and proudly added it to our bookshelf “So anyone can pick it to read!” I happily allowed him to pick some 30 early reader books from the library. He began pouring through them as soon as we got to the van.

I’ve approached my new role as “primary educator” like I would a new job. I’ve poured over books, blogs, and podcasts seeking advice and ideas.  It’s had it’s rough patches, but I must say I have been thrilled with how much I have learned these past few months. I feel more confident and fulfilled. Thanks to homeschooling, my boys request “Story of the World” (A world history text we have on audiobook) as soon as we get in the van. Scotland finds ways to teach Anders. Just yesterday he was giving him a tutorial on how to draw people- which Anders quickly followed.  Anders is enthusiastic about “reading” to me and working hard to learn his letters. He’ll often jumpstart our review of famous paintings or start singing the days of the week during breakfast. The boys like to compete over who will finish first the verse of scripture we’re memorizing that month. Most importantly, the boys have bonded in deep and beautiful ways, and their adoration for Chiara only grows.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to mother an almost six year old. Scotter doesn’t engage the way he used to. He often skips our story time before naps, (a favorite time of mine to cuddle my boys). There is much less physical contact between us now, and I think that might be contributing to the emotional distance I feel from him too. Both Scotter and I like to be in charge, and lead out. That’s why we butt heads. He likes to do things his way. I like to do things my way. I feel justified because I’m the mother. I get frustrated when he won’t just listen and obey and he gets feisty when I direct his life too much. Scotter thrives on a situation where he can teach himself, and only get help if he asks for it. It can be frustrating as his teacher. I worry he isn’t learning enough. Then, the other day I started to list all the things Tom has taught himself: electricity, plumbing, coding, book making, car repair, etc. I see many similarities between the two and it gave me peace that if I provide a rich environment Scotter will do just fine. He’s inquisitive and determined when something captures his attention. The struggle is being willing to go along with his whimsy! (“Let’s build an entire city! We’ll use LEGOS, duplos, magna-tiles, blocks, the train tracks, the play mobile stuff. . . Let’s try to build a bridge from the TV to the couch!”)

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We spent a week in Utah with my family after Christmas. It was a wonderful trip, and the boys were in cousin heaven! I was grateful for the chance to spend some one on one time with many of my nieces and nephews and siblings: building snap circuits with Keiton and Rhyse, painting with Brecklyn, playing water basketball with Landen, Bryce, and Talia; reading to Coleman and Brielle; playing cars with Miles, playing in the snow with Brielle and Sam. I was surprised by how jolly and affection Anders was. He went around giving everyone hugs, would crawl up on anyone’s lap, and clearly felt completely at ease. He’s that way at home, but I guess it surprised me by how completely he accepted that all these people who he rarely sees are “family”- to be loved and cherished. I hardly saw Scotter. He was all too happy to be in a constant state of play. I could hardly drag him away to eat! Scotter said over and over that the thing he wanted most for Christmas was to be with family. (And by family he meant extended family.) I’m SO grateful to my parents and Dantzel who drove us down. Not having to drive and help my children was such a blessing, and it was a treat to get to spend more time with them.

Guard my heart

I’m a pleaser. It’s impossible to please everyone when you’re a mother. This stresses me. A week ago I had a bit of a melt down. It was all too much, I was failing right and left, I needed a break. .  . I cried and cried- gave myself a headache, stressed Tom out, and fell into a deep slumber and awoke with renewed determination to overcome. I awoke early, and spent a good hour in prayer and scripture study. I signed up for a free online parenting course, I prioritized a few things, and determined to let go of some things. Out of it all the most powerful morsel of help was the realization that I need to pray for God to “guard my heart.” I need Him to stand in the way of the emotional meltdowns or accusations of my children and confidently own my thoughtful intentional parenting. Just because my child gets mad and frustrated when I tell him we aren’t having dessert for breakfast, or screams and throws a fit because I tell him that “Yes, today, like everyday, you need to help with a chore.” My natural tendency is to get pulled into the emotion, to get defensive, and, too often frustration, turns into anger. Now each morning I proceed with the faith that God will guard my heart. I’m working on setting realistic expectations, asking respectfully, and then allowing God to protect my heart from the onslaught that so often proceeds. So far, it’s worked beautifully. The emotional melt downs are lessening, as they’re not getting the same attention- nor are they getting fed by my own immature responses. It’s one of the things I find the most challenging about motherhood- the balance of apathy and empathy. For too long I’ve thought it had to be one or the other, but I feel like I’m learning there is a melding that is most powerful. “Oh man! Brownies for breakfast sound delicious. But we strive to eat healthy as a family, so let’s wait and eat a brownie after dinner, ok?!” Instead of, “No, you can’t have a brownie!” or Ignore. And be annoyed he asked a question he knows the answer to.

More often than not I realize after an encounter how I could have imbued my response with more empathy: “It looks like you’re in the middle of some really fun LEGO play! We really need to go, or we’re going to be late. Can you leave your LEGOS just where you have them, and return to them when we get home?” Instead of “It’s time to go, come on get your shoes on quick. . .Anders, please go get your shoes.. .  Anders! We’re going to be late, I need your help! . . .  FINE! I’ll put your shoes on!”

My prayer is that eventually the thoughts and realizations I have after I mess up, will one day precede the events. A girl can hope. A girl can pray.

Quote of the day:

“This is my own baby. My baby’s three months.” -Anders to me as he comes up the stairs carrying his baby doll. (He later asked Scotter to help him carry his baby like mommy (in the ERGO) so Scotland stuffed it down his shirt.

Making a bed

I recently became aware of the fact that I’ve never paid much attention to how beds are made. I’ve always made mine the way my Grandmother taught me-  fold the sheet down, pull the quilt up over the pillows, do a quick karate chop under the pillows to make a line, smooth things out. Call it a day. I’d noticed the abundance of pillows that most designer beds have.  I like the color and character they can add. But I didn’t realize until a few months ago that typically the quilt it not pulled up over the pillows. It’s folded down, revealing the sheets and pillows that are slept on. What?! Who has pillowcases that they actually use to sleep on that are worth showcasing?! Is that normal? Are most people’s sheets in a state worth revealing? Eek.

The fact is NO. Most people don’t have either of those things. It just so happens that the visual minority is misrepresenting the unseen majority. Most are lucky to have a bed to sleep in. (If we’re thinking globally.) My grandmother’s method of making a bed, was orderly, but it didn’t require new bedding be purchased on a regular bases, it didn’t call for an overabundance of pillows, and it certainly didn’t require all parts of the bed to look unworn.

What is it with the mentality that everything look “unworn” “unused.” I sleep in my bed. I drool on my pillow. And maybe because I’ve never spent big bucks on quality linens, but my sheets NEVER look worthy of display. I would never leave my pillow intentionally uncovered. Am I alone here?

I refuse to be pulled into the consumeristic trend to be constantly replacing perfectly usable items in order to maintain “a look.” I recently had this lightbulb moment. I realized that I had fallen prey to this concept, in other areas of my life. I wanted my house to constantly “look” a certain way. And when I was real with myself that “look” was the “un-lived in” look. How absurd of me! This realization has really changed my perspective on my home, my looks, my children. I don’t care that my recently finished floor is resplendent with scratches (though I sure am glad I didn’t stain it!) because each scratch means life was lived on top of my floor. It’s a FLOOR by golly, it was meant to be walked on, danced on, jumped on! I’ve tried to apply the same principle to my body. I’ll admit it’s hard to embrace the “cottage cheese” skin that now adorns my belly. But I certainly have no difficulty embracing the three little loves who caused that state of affairs, and I’m grateful for a body with the transforming potential to give life- despite its scars and changes.

When we focus on looking a certain way, it stifles our ability to live a certain way. I’m less restrictive of my and my children’s activities when we’re wearing our older athletic clothing- “Go ahead and slide down that dirt hill!” When I’m fixated on keeping my house looking perfect I don’t engage with my children in the same way- we don’t lie among the couch cushions on the floor and read stories on our backs- I don’t sit down and paint with them. And yet those are the moments that warm my heart for months even years, when I think back on them. A sparkling house gives me a temporary lift, but it’s fleeting- because well. Dinner must be made.

Things I love. . .

The way Anders says “key-oot!” (cute) anytime he seems something small.

Anders trying to say “Interesting” when we went on our science walk today.

The way Ari holds her foot while she’s sleeping in the Ergo.

How Scotland’s eyes glitter when he showed me his LEGO glider this afternoon.

A direct quote from Anders tonight after dinner: “O.K. Let’s use the potty, brush teeth, get the corn, (he had some corn stuck in his teeth from dinner), get a treat, and get my crown.” (This kids loves lists!)

Anders, intensely: “Mom, show me the bow owen.” (Show me how to shoot the bow and arrow.)

Anders:”Mom, baby wants to hold me.” He gives her a hug, and says sweetly into her ear, “I love you, Baby!”

Chiara giggling as I play with her arms and legs.

Chiara raising her eye browns and full body smiling.

Scotland belting out made-up tunes the entirety of his “quiet time.”

Scotland: “Mom can we get peanuts with shells!” (Gotta love Five Guys for popularizing peanuts in shells with my boys. Talk about a great “snack” if you need to feed and entertain your kids at the same time!)

Scotter asked if he too could get a treat and proposed he clear the table to earn it. (He’s noted the inequality of Anders getting potty treats.) I readily agreed, and he did a beautiful job. When I handed him not, two, but a handful of skittles he looked up at me in complete bewilderment. “Why did you give me so many Mom?” “Because, I’ve really appreciated your help today.” (He ate a few and saved the rest.)

Anders realized this week that he can complete dress himself. I still forget and will start helping him wit his pants or shirt and he’ll giggle and smilingly say, “Mom you don’t need help me. I do it myself!”

I spent time this afternoon sketching the various stages of the blooming fuchsia. Scotland sketched a leaf- noting it’s jagged sides, vein structure, and the placement of a certain dark spot. Anders drew a fuchsia flower. (An oval with lines descending from it.) We collected a variety of interesting flowers, rocks, leaves, and eight insects to “study.” The boys were thrilled to use their magnifying glasses to examine and tweezers to gather various specimen.  Then we played a rousing couple games of dodge ball and basketball. I’m loving this homeschooling gig!

The chance to take a friend to the Frye art museum today! The exhibit by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi was reverential. His attention to the beauty of simplistic interiors, and his appreciation of gray and mist- was a perfect precursor to the approaching Seattle gray. I love how art helps me see beauty in greater abundance.

Three sleeping children- with no fight before bed!

 

 

A mother heart

I first heard the phrase “a mother heart” on a friend’s blog, and later heard it used in this talk. The idea stuck with me. I’ve thanked God for my mother heart at times and prayed for it at others. I’ve been listening to Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat” over the past month. While in many ways its comforting to realize that there is great commonality in parenting. Everyone’s kids are loud, whiney, messy, forgetful. This morning, I realized that the book hasn’t been good for me. While the book is meant to be sarcastic, and has given me a chuckle form time to time, the negativity has crept into my parental lens, and clouded it. Now to be fair, Gaffigan is certainly not entirely to blame for this shift, but listening to his book has only affirmed feelings of frustration and apathy. I want to return to the days of early motherhood when it was exciting, fulfilling, comical.

Instead of noise- let me hear energy.

Instead of mess- let me see creativity.

Instead of fighting- let me see interaction.

Instead of spills- let me see trying.

Instead of anger- let me see neediness.

Instead of stains- let me see a love of the outdoors.

Let me wonder at the expanse of the human spirit- and teach me how to support it, encourage it, learn from it, instead of stamping it out.

In an effort to convert back to a perspective of positive parenting, I’m going to make a goal to post a few things that I love about my kids each night.

-Last night, as we were tucking Anders in for bed: “I need my phone! I need my keys!”

-Anders: “Baby is my princess.”

-Scotland finding “inner peace” during our sword fighting play. (We just watched Kung Fu Panda 2.)

-Chiara was crying while we were driving home from a friend’s house this evening. Anders started thinking through ways he could help her. “Do we have baby’s passy?” (Nope) “I have a blankie in my pack pack.” (I check and he doesn’t. But find his favorite stuffed animal- Chippers.) “Baby can have my Chippers.”

-Scotland sweetly coming up with a system of turns so his friends could try sliding down the hall on their knees using his tae kwon do pads.

-Doing math with my boys. Building “stairs” with the cuisenaire rods, which turned into building earthquake safe buildings, which turned into watching youtube clips on marshmallow straw structures, which turned into an eager desire to make the same. Too bad we didn’t have any marshmallows!

-Helping Scotland compose a song on the piano.

-Watching Chiara’s long blinks, as she fought sleep.

-Chiara’s combo of wide-mouthed smiles and flapping arms.

-The way Chiara immediately calms and nuzzles into me when I pick her up after she’s been crying.

-Dancing along with the flamingos with Scotland each time he finished a segment on his learning app.

-Marveling at the diversity of animals on this earth as looked through the Animal Encyclopedia Dev and Jess gave us. Anders saying “Look! Cute!”

Too often at the end of the day my mind fixates on the moments of failure- the tantrums, the emotional outbreaks, the defiance (from both my kids and myself.) Those things happen, and heaven knows we’re doing our best to work through them. But when I fixate on them, I tend to escalate the small things, and in so doing- incite further furor.

I’m so grateful I’m homeschooling so far. I feel like I’ve accepted a more demanding position in my line of work, but a position that will bring more fulfillment and joy.

 

My Mommy Marathon in the Olympic National Forest

There are just a few weeks of summer left, I’ve been working on a few different projects that have required me to look back through this summer’s pictures. It’s been a beautiful reminder of what a full and delightful one it’s been. It started off in the Olympic National Forest with my brother Devin and his family, parents, and Dantzel. This was a pretty epic trip for me. I now happily refer to it as my Mommy marathon of the summer. Taking a two and a half month old baby camping and hiking alone with her two older brothers was gutsy, and I’m proud of my grit. I have several whole posts in my head about this trip- hopefully I’ll get to actually type them up someday.

And so it begins- Nothing like starting a vacation on a boat! We drove onto the ferry to Kingston so we could drive to Port Angeles. Seattle is such a cool city!

Atop Hurricane Ridge

Salt Creek County Park- first campsite, tide pools

My nephew Keiton came along and it was such a treat to get to know him alone, and for the boys to spend time with just him. 

I love that my boys have a “young aunt.” I was the young aunt to my oldest nieces and nephews and I LOVED it. My boys thrill in Dantzel’s attention. Here she is showing Anders, Keiton and I a tiny tide pool- there were multiple creatures swimming in this small shell!

This was the first face Scotland made upon waking up after our first night of camping. The boys were SO excited to sleep in the tent that they literally begged me to let them go to sleep. (I should specify that was the first night. It certainly wasn’t the last.)

Just to prove that Chiara was there.

The only reason I had the guts to go on this trip was because I was going to be with my parents, brother and sister and sister-in-law. In the end bad cell service and a disparity of needs and interests meant that we were together only in the mornings and evenings. None the less it was great to see them, and it’s certainly easier to prepare kids for the day, and get them ready for bed when someone else is holding your baby!

The last day we were there, I kept Keiton so the older half could enjoy some longer hikes (and drives). We had a beach day. The boys had a blast running in the surf at Kalaloch. They both were really taken by the sensation of the waves under their feet. Scotland was certain that the earth was moving under him. That he was standing still and everything else was in motion. Over and over he tried to verbalize how strange and exciting it was. This was the perfect beach to experience the ocean, because it was shallow for a long time and the waves were exciting without being too frightening- at least to the 5 year olds.

After beach number one, we changed into dry clothes and headed to beach two (Ruby Beach). (Where they quickly got wet again.) There was the above lake of sorts on the beach, which fascinated the boys much more than the rocky, driftwood laden beach. I helped them push in this driftwood ‘boat’ and they sailed around on it laughing hysterically. (It was such a jolly sight that multiple other hikers stopped to take pictures of them.) It was all fun and games until Anders, napless, fell apart and started to throw one of his royal tantrums. (The screaming-at-the-top-of-his-lungs, I-will-not-compromise, dead-weight, sort of tantrum.) He had been slow to join the boys on the driftwood log, so when I told them that it was time to head out shortly after he’d finally worked up the courage, he was IRRATE. I was, unfortunately, unsympathetic, which of course escalated the tantrum. After unsuccessfully trying to console him. I ended up hauling him all the way up the trail as he kicked and screamed (while carrying Chiara in the Ergo) and encouraging the older boys to please hurry and carry the bags, all while hikers gave me varying looks. (“What a horrible Mother!” “What is she doing to that poor boy. “”Oh that poor Mom!” “What a beast of a child.” “She is not equipped to be a mother.” “Somebody should do something!” ) By the time we reached the van I was in a state of emotional duress. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was frustrated that the other part of the group had never shown up at Ruby Beach as was our plan. Surely, they’d be back at the campsite. Well, no. The rest of the evening was rough. Really rough. With four hungry kids (and a hungry Mom) I didn’t do the logical thing and just eat crackers and peanut butter for dinner but insisted on making the tamales and salad I had prepared and brought for my dinner assignment that night. So there I was, Chiara crying in the Ergo, three little boys running around yelling while I tried to encourage them to help me collect firewood. Of course they didn’t, at which point I started to shame them for not helping when it was obvious I needed help- baby screaming at this point. They still didn’t help. And the five other adults still didn’t show up. I can only imagine what the campers around me were thinking. Regardless, I got the fire going, cooked the tamales, prepared the salad, fed the kids, prepped the kids for bed, fed the baby, tried to lull her to sleep, unsuccessfully- while watching three boys in the forest, felt bad that my nephew was chattering with cold since he had no dry clothes (them being in the van with the absent adults), fielded question after question from the sweet cold nephew, tried to force my two defiant boys to stay in their sleeping bags and sleep so I could finally get the screaming baby to sleep, who was shaking with frustration at all the chaos .. I think you get the point. I had lost all emotional control. And in that fragile state I decided to scrap it- and go home. I buckled the boys in their seats. Threw everything in the back of the van, took down the tent- shoved it in, and drove off. The fire still crackling at our campsite. I passed the others in our group at the turn off to our campsite, at 8:30PM. I curtly informed them that I was driving home, jumped out, pulled out Keiton and his stuff, and drove off. I was ashamed, embarrassed. But I couldn’t take anymore. And I knew that driving while the boys and hopefully Chiara slept was a much better plan than driving the following day when she would likely cry most of it (as she had for the majority of the driving the two days previously.) It turns out two near sleepless nights, combined with three days of extensive physical exertion doesn’t bode well on my psyche. I cried much of the way home.

I share this not to point fingers at my totally well-intentioned and apologetic parents and siblings. But to be real. Could I forgo these details (and spare myself the unflattering reveal) and instead tell of the majestic memories we made? Could I give the impression that taking two boys camping with a two and a half month old alone was wonderful, and easy. Sure. And truthfully 90% of the trip was beautiful. But that final 10, was ugly. Downright ugly. I felt so rattled and ashamed I couldn’t pull myself out of it for days. Now, writing about it months later those emotions are still strong, and while the memories of finding sea stars in the tide pools, or having a picnic over a waterfall together, or watching my boys laugh hysterically as they ran through the surf are beautiful and vibrant they are still covered by this hazy film of regret for loosing it in the final round. Ironically, just before writing this post I was studying for a talk I’ll be giving in church in a few weeks on humility and forgiveness. And it occurs to me that there is a way to remove the haze, and that is by humbling myself and seeking God’s grace. I was so proud of my success up to that point. I had so many people stop and comment on how brave I was to take two boys and a new born hiking alone. I had strangers (Chinese) take pictures of me with my three small children in the middle of the rainforest- happily hiking along. I had chosen to go off on my own to prove that I was capable, to impressive others. I didn’t need anyone’s help! So in the end when I came to a crashing halt, I was devastated- my weakness exposed. Forgiveness, isn’t all that’s needful, but repentance. Repentance and humility.

The trip was an emotional marathon. It did what I knew it would do: expose my weaknesses, define my limits, and shed light on my abilities and disabilities. Too often I seek comfort at the expense of meaningful soul-stretching experiences. This was a time when I sought discomfort for the purpose of growth. And I got it- by means of a painful pruning.