Scarred Disciple

This babe of ours has loved music since she could wiggle within me. Some would suggest she had hiccups but I know she was keeping rhythm. Without fail her movements consistently matched particular songs or musicians. For instance, she loves the music of our dear friend, the extraordinary songstress Cori Connors. I loved sitting through Cori’s Christmas concert last winter, feeling within me the babe’s response to her whole souled performance.

Or there were the several times I taught the children in our stake that Doctrine is truth that points us to Jesus Christ. To practice seeking these truths, we’d identify statements as we’d sing I Am A Child of God. Without fail, this babe of mine would “leap within my womb” as I’d sing this song. On one occasion, I shared her movement with the children in the room. One perceptive and wise 5 year old responded: your baby loves the doctrine.

Indeed!

Here she is now, three full months old today, and this little angel of ours has demonstrated her moves as she dances to music every day. It’s the most extraordinary thing to see her move and acknowledge: I know exactly what the motion feels like!

More than that, I love her joyful expression, the motion of her passion.

She still loves Cori’s music and has added to her repertoire a love for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (particularly their Primary music) and Mindy Gledhill (just to name a few). This morning our little dancer was laughing and singing to each song on Mindy’s Anchor album. As I sang along the lyrics:

Oh, I’ve loved you from the start
In every single way
And more each passing day
You are brighter than the stars
Believe me when I say
It’s not about your scars
It’s all about your heart

I told the babe; you don’t have scars. and it struck me once again. God has trusted me with this perfect spirit. Oh how I want to protect her in every important way…guard her and custom fit her armor so she can be a good steward. I want her to know the power of the atonement in healing every wound she’ll incur in her mortal experience. It’s inevitable. It’s necessary.

Then I told her mama has a scar to remember you by. Every time I see it I’ll remember you came from deep within me. Immediately, a favorite passage came to my heart and mind. The tears began to flow:

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the [daughter] of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16

I don’t want to forget. Ever. Yes. The perfected Christ has retained scars so that I can remember that He knows and loves me. He has ransomed me and made way for my return. He’s retained scars to ensure that He is recognizable to you and to me.One day he will permit me to thrust my hands into his wounds and bathe his feet in my worshipful tears of gratitude. Likewise, He’s allowed me to retain scars as a symbol of his redemption- a literal mark of his saving grace. My wounds are bound up by him and him alone.

I’m grateful for the lessons of mortality, manifest in the flesh. I love this purple scar across my womb – a symbol of her as a type of Him. And a call to be like him as I carefully guide her on her path of discipleship. Like my daughter, I feel this rhythm deep within me – the song of redeeming love.

A+

Okay. I’ll confess. Though admittedly I’ve been in denial for some time, I am a type A personality: intense, driven, passionate, task and goal oriented, high expecting, high achieving and relentless. These qualities have helped me to accomplish a great deal in my life. And like all personality traits, they can be both strengths and weaknesses.

Having said that, nothing has challenged me more than motherhood. This schedule lover of checking off the task list has come to almost a complete stop.

What a gift.

My daughter is inviting me to reevaluate the measures of a successful life. What used to be so natural and easy for me to do is now a major accomplishment (like sincere scripture study and kneeling prayer). And when it’s all said and done if she has slept well each day, I am happy. (Not because I love the time when she’s asleep but because it’s her “work” right now as she grows,) She is encouraging me to slow down and drink deep from the unique opportunity of service that she has granted me.

What a joy to spend my days becoming an expert in HER…learning to read her needs and attend to them quickly, marveling at her simple discoveries (right now it’s her hands) and new skills (currently she’s working on the most adorable giggle I’ve ever heard).

So I haven’t gotten on my hands and knees to scrub my floors like I prefer, written extensively each day, taught classes or interacted with many people. I don’t get much “done” each day. It’s a big deal if I exercise, study my scriptures and take a shower all in a 24 hour period of time. But I’m accomplishing exactly what I should be each day…I’m growing a beautiful girl who is refining an over programmed mama. It feels like I have a second (or third or fourth…) chance to change. And I marvel that my work for her is primarily physical while her reciprocal gift to me is absolutely sanctifying and exalting.

Thank you baby girl. Thank you.

Surprised by Hope

Certainly there are aspects of new Motherhood that have been a surprise to me. For instance, take the amount of laundry that one little person can create. That’s been surprising. Or her noises. I thought I’d been around a few newborns in my life but clearly not enough to realize they’re so noisy. My babe has a lovely array of sounds; sounds that I want to record and let her identify later. She’s quite good at impersonations of baby goats or elephants and screeching tires or squeaky doors. Gratefully these sounds don’t scare me anymore. 

I’m surprised by my seemingly lack of interest in any other living creature. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t hardened my heart to other people, I’ve just lost any desire to socialize or interact with others. My hours are spent studying the tiniest features of my baby- the hair on her shoulders, ears, neck, back…she’s so fuzzy and cute. Counting and recounting her fingers and toes, running my fingers through her dark hair over and over and over and again. Feeling like I can see her grow right before my eyes. Watching her stretch and yawn, wave her arms like she’s conducting music and respond to light or the sound of music or a fan. She fascinates me. 

I’m surprised by how comfortable I feel mothering her. Its not so intimidating anymore to bathe and dress her or to figure out what she needs… what her cry means. I’m surprised at the way we communicate with each other and how I work to anticipate her need before she cries. 

I’m amazed at how much I love my body, marveling at the work its done in creating her and now nourishing her. I feel myself fulfilling a measure of my creation in her creation. God is good. What a paradox to consider the adversary’s relenting efforts to destroy my empowered sense of my body. 

Perhaps the most amazing surprise these past 7 weeks is the amount of love I feel… for her, for her daddy. I thought I was in love before but this space in my heart has expanded in a way that I never thought possible. I always hoped for this. All I ever wanted was to be a mother and now I am one precious little girl’s mama. In the corner of my mind, even during the darkest, singlest days, I hoped for her. And believed this would happen.

Still. I’m surprised by the way Hope feels when it becomes a reality.

 

Twins

It was 4 weeks ago today… almost to the minute, that I gave birth to our daughter. I was 36 weeks 6 days pregnant on that Thursday afternoon. I was anticipating a baby shower later that night. As we drove to the doctor’s office, we were guessing how dilated I might be and how much longer until she’d arrive. We never expected hearing “you need to have this baby now!” from Dr. Jones. But as it turns out, my blood pressure (which had been monitored with non-stress tests for the past six weeks) was dangerously high. Knowing my desire for a natural birth, the doc suggested the option of being induced (at a 1 cm dilation) or a c-section…explaining his concerns of what my blood pressure could do during a long, hard labor. 

We chose a c-section.

Within an hour of that conversation, our baby was in our arms. Perfect and beautiful. And suddenly all that we had been planning and preparing for had happened. Our daughter had arrived: 6 pounds and 14 ounces of pure joy. 

My delivery was nothing like I had planned. But isn’t that typical? After all, I’ve committed to live the unexpected life.

I loved being pregnant and was surprised by the ache in my heart when the anesthesiologist numbed me and I could no longer feel her move inside of me. While I knew that a very real baby was about to be in my arms, I still felt this tug that I had not prepared for. What a transition.

Having miscarried two times prior to this pregnancy, I experienced a bit of anxiety during the first 12 weeks. But the nausea trumped and some how squashed out the worry. Once we saw an ultrasound everything shifted for me. Indeed, we had a viable pregnancy, we really were having a baby! It was at this point that I made an important choice: throughout this pregnancy, I was going to focus on the Atonement and trust in Alma’s promise:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind;

and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. 

And he will take upon him death,

that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people;

and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy,

according to the flesh,

that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things;

nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh

that he might take upon him the sins of his people,

that he might blot out their transgressions

according to the power of his deliverance;

and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Alma 7:11-13

Remember Him” became my mantra.

My focus has been on the atonement, coming unto Christ in a way that I had never thought to before. Trusting Him and His plan.

As I prepared for and practiced for my natural birth I visualized Him and His suffering. When I felt her move, I remembered Him.  When I was sick, uncomfortable, aching or tired, I thought of Him. She became this powerful motivating force in my life, this symbol and type of Christ. So when it came time to have major surgery to deliver her…exactly what I did NOT want to have happen, I was reminded that one of the most important aspect of the atonement is to surrender: submit my will. And in this case, my choice wasn’t just about me, it was about the life of someone else…my daughter. Nevertheless. Thy will be done.

While my recovery has been amazing and our baby is healthy and so very happy and content, I’ve still experience quite a bit of anxiety.

Is she breathing?

Should she sound like that (she has a great assortment of animal sounds)?

Is she eating enough?

etc.etc.etc.

 

I’m a new, first time mother. I joke that I gave birth to twins that day: a baby and anxiety. Yet in the wakeful early morning hours, I’m stirred to remember Him. To surrender. AGAIN. To recognize that the pregnancy and the practice of coming unto Him was just the beginning. I have work to do. 

Maybe it wasn’t anxiety and a baby that I gave birth to on January 23. It was my daughter and my new life. Two new creatures, born of Christ… blood, water, and spirit.

As I look at her, I remember Him. I see HIM in this vibrant, valiant spirit that we’ve given life to. This symbol of new life both physically and spiritually. I embrace this opportunity to surrender. And to learn. I welcome our beautiful daughter to our hearts and home- our symbol of Hope, the Perfect brightness of HOPE through the Atonement.

What a miracle: her, me, HIM. 

Happy one month of mortality my sweet little friend.

Please keep teaching your mama. 

Anniversary

Today marks 20 years since the day I received my endowment in the Arizona temple (Mesa…it’s pretty amazing that in those 20 years, 3 more temples have been constructed and 2 more are under way. Oh how I wish I could be at the Gilbert temple dedication March 2!)

Twenty years seems like a long time. It is, I suppose.

Today I am reflecting on the power of my covenants and how the temple truly has become the symbol of my membership (see President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, October 1994). For me, it is a principle of consistency. Regular attendance has been a priority for me. Through the busiest of times I intentionally chose to be in the temple each week and as a result, believe I thrived in what might be deemed some of the most difficult periods of my life. There is a literal power that comes through our covenants. My mind has been invigorated and enlarged. My heart has been healed. My burdens have been lightened. My greatest desires have been fulfilled in the temple of our Lord.

On this day I celebrate the connection between heaven and earth, giving thanks for the restoration of all things…specifically the ordinances and covenants in the temple.

**what has the temple come to mean to you?
**if you are unfamiliar with Latter-day Saints temples, take a look at this.
** friends living in the Phoenix valley area, I hope you’ll be attending the Gilbert temple open house. You can request tickets (free!) here.

Clicking

I’ve noticed that many of my friends take advantage of the month of November to express gratitude for the various blessings in their lives. This month I’m going to conduct a little experiment in an attempt to focus my thoughts. I’ll be clicking my way through this week and see how that shapes the rest of the season. . .

This “experiment” is the genius of my friend Hilary Weeks. She’s  given me one of her clicker kits so I can conduct a little cognitive awareness study. Here’s how it works: I’ll wear a clicker with me during the day and take note of my positive thoughts. My goal? I want to be more grateful and intentional in my thinking. It reminds me of King Benjamin’s admonition:

“. . . if ye do not watch  yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”  Mosiah 4:30

Do you want to join me in this experiment? Take a minute and check out this video explaining how Hilary’s experiment began and why I want to try it. I think you’ll love it.

You can get your own clicker here  and enter the code JEN256 for a special promotion on the kit.

And please let me know if you’re  joining me. I’d love to invite a few of you to do a guest post. I’ll keep you posted on my personal observations.

Better than Christmas

We currently have a niece and a nephew serving as full-time missionaries. One in Mexico, another in Nebraska. I had to smile when I read their weekly letters yesterday. They used the same language to describe their experience with General Conference this weekend: it felt like Christmas. My sentiments exactly! What a gift to feel this outpouring of our Savior’s love, delivered through His servants. 

I am grateful for the personalized sermons that seem custom fit to me and my need. What a gift the Spirit is. 

I am grateful for clear doctrines taught boldly and confidently.

I am grateful for the example of a living prophet who has served in this capacity tirelessly for 50 years. President Thomas S. Monson is a miracle. 

I love authentic messages that inspire me to be better and do more, but only according to my strength…that it’s okay to rest. 

There is so much I can say. But much of it feels too personal. I think you understand…

Today I celebrate this season with my sweet missionaries. Today  feels like New Years… time to recommit and do better. I am excited to press forward in new and clarified goals, celebrating the splendor of the restoration.

What will you do as a result of your experience with General Conference?

 

A few favorite links about general conference:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Elder Paul Johnson

Elder Robert D. Hales (YES! The English text from Oct 2013 is now available!)

And how about “A talk a day” challenge? It’s the perfect time to start this ritual.

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