Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How the Light Gets In

It is morning. The morning after a tough evening, and I am still raw from the hurting. Mine and theirs. I hurt for who I am in difficult moments, who I wish I wasn't. I went to bed thinking morning would make it better - with a fresh start and a rested head - but as I woke Eliza, her reservations toward me were palpable. There was more mending to do.

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By eight o'clock last night, I had asked and prodded Eliza so many times to write a spelling word, finish a problem, or pick up something she left on the floor, my patience well ran dry. I had barked and prodded at my children for so long, I simply couldn't do it anymore. And the bickering? It was draining and tiresome. The girls were unkind to each other only to wax so silly a few minutes later I had to get out the tobasco sauce for potty language.

I had lost my temper, raised my voice, and dumped Eliza in a wrestling heap on her bed for a time-out.

I was done. Done with the day, the attitudes, the ears that went missing, the insane messes, and this old house that is perpetually falling apart - one knob, one faucet, one bit of molding at a time.

So I sat down at the computer to check the Ohio polls. It was Super Tuesday and I cared, but more than anything I needed an escape. Just a few moments. Because everything I was trying to do felt futile. No one was listening, no one was coming when I called, no one (except me) cared that bedtime was getting later, and later.

While clicking around, I saw Ann's recent post. I scrolled down and her words drew me in. I stayed and read, and suddenly, I was crying over the phrase, "All is Grace" as my kids yanked cushions from the couch, hid in their fort when I told them it was time for baths, continued to tear the toy room apart, as if there were any toys left to be torn from the shelves or drawers.

It was that word. Grace.

Why do I forget that it is there?

Ann's words were a comfort. All the hurts and jabs I'd tossed out, all the shortcomings of the day, came tumbling in, and I wept. I saw Ann on the Kathy Lee Gifford show and I thought, "If only I could be that good, make a difference like that, love my children like she does. If only I had eyes to see the grace-miracle..."

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I was comparing, wanting, knowing full-well she has days like mine. But it wasn't the kind of sizing up that brought me down. It was a belief that there is a better way. So I clicked out, grabbed the boys' pajamas and picked up Spencer to take him to the tub. Eliza saw the tears still wet on my cheeks and asked, "Why are you crying Mom?"

All I could say was, "Because sometimes I'm not a good Mom."

Minutes later while bathing the boys, a note came crumpling through the slit beneath the door.

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They loved me. They wouldn't listen to me. But they loved me.

I broke. And all those merciful places I shut down when frustration gets the better of me began to open. That point of breaking, of crying, of surrendering to someone bigger and better, drained the angst right out of me and I embraced the gigantic mess we'd all made. The words I'd said. The streamers still hanging from Saturday's birthday party, the pencil shavings on the carpet, the can of peaches someone knocked onto the kitchen floor, juice still pooling.

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What did those things matter, really? They were just that. Things.

But my children? They were living souls - sent to me to protect and love. At all costs. And I realized that all these expectations of perfection only set me up for failure.

Leonard Cohen sang,

"Don't dwell on what has passed away... forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

So I tried to ease it in. Bit by bit, to those dark corners of my soul. The ones that need lightening and lifting.

But sometimes illumination is slow. I doubted. I worried. That my children will hear only disappointment and correction in my voice. That I haven't been good enough for them. That splitting me five ways will leave them with just a sliver of a mother - an unfulfilling place for all of us.

And that is how I went to bed. Heavy.

But this morning, the light cracked the clouds, just above the tip of the mountain. And it streamed into the living room, into Ali's pink rose that was opening.

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It washed across the kitchen table as Gordy and his poodle ate cheerios.

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It tangled into Ali's hair, as she leafed through a book, sleep still visible in her eyes.

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And I saw it. Noticed it. At all its lengths and angles.

So I sidled my inadequacy next to His promise. That His burdens are light. And his grace is sufficient. Even for me. The daughter he knows is short-sighted at times, impatient, and ought to cross herself more often.

Eliza didn't respond last night when I kissed her on the cheek, when I told her how much I loved her. And no reciprocation from her was hard.

But as I made her breakfast this morning, combed her hair, and slid her lunch bag over her shoulder, I could feel the light gently filling me up. I washed the boys hands, carried Sami from her bunk to the table, and returned to make my own bed, all the while letting the light seep in.

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As I pulled our quilt from the floor, I found this love note Eliza had made for me a month ago. I had folded it carefully and scooched it under the bed one night, so I could sleep. Pulling it out, I spread it flat. So I could read it again in the light. A stack of cut-out hearts, taped together. Love rising out of the rubble.

There is no perfect offering. And that is okay. It's okay to be broken.

That's how the light gets in.

26 comments:

  1. Hugs - you're an awesome mama. Thanks for reminding me to see the beauty in the chaos.

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  2. So what I needed to hear right now. Just listened to Uchtdorfs talk - they are all mine and it is no picnic. It is so very hard at times but with His help, we can start each day again and TRY to be better.

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    1. Mimi - which talk? His talk on patience? Or his most recent from the Women's Meeting?

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  3. I love you. I understand these feelings. I went to bed last night feeling just like this. Still hoping for more light to shine through the cracks of all my imperfections....

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    1. Wanting more light for you too. xo

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  4. This is beautifully written and SO relateable. Today will be better.

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  5. you are fabulous, Cath. Your job is HARD, really really HARD, but you are doing so well.

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  6. All of you wonderful women are a gift. Still not myself today. Last night was equally hard. Needing something to shift a bit more inside me. I need some new tactics, more love, more patience. Thoughts anyone? I just said yes to a column this month in the Deseret News about patient mothering. And here I am, feeling clueless today. How do you develop more patience?

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  7. Oh I love this, Cath. Those days are especially hard. I've had more of them than I like to admit. I know that feeling -- and it's ironic, because the same things could happen on another day and wouldn't make you go crazy. But other days, it's all you can bear. Another thing just makes you break. I think you're doing a super fine job and your children are so blessed to have you for a mother. You're focused, thoughtful, loving, resolute and purposeful, offering them gifts that will feed and nourish them, giving them a good footing. This is so admirable.

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  8. And p.s., I love that whole analogy that the crack is what allows the light in. Beautiful.

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  9. I wish we could have a phone conversation! I love your question in your comment today!

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  10. Oh, Cath, I am so very, very sorry it's been an exhausting, overwhelming time for you. Truthfully, I am amazed that you are doing this job of yours. Five kids in four years????!!!!!! Seriously, that is not the way almost any of us do mothering during those young years. You have been moving at a breathtaking whirlwind of a pace for almost 7 years, right? How in the world could a mortal woman be expected to take care of those sweet kids and run a busy household without once in a while yelling or losing it? I declare: It is not humanly possible. (Particularly if your husband's been working long hours or you've been under the weather or your hormones have been working against you…common complaint of mine:). There is plenty of space for bad days in the world of mothering. No one has to always have it together. There is grace. There is forgiveness. You probably just need lots and lots of sleep and a few days (or weeks) of sitting and doing nothing. Your tank has probably gone on empty for a while.

    Just the other day, I was commenting to a friend how I don't really yell anymore as a mom. She agreed that she had gotten to the same point. Then, we started laughing at ourselves because we realized it's not that we've really changed. Our kids have just gotten older, and we finally have a little time and space to catch our breath. I don't know if you fully realize what a Herculean task you're taking on each day. You may not even know it completely until a few more years have passed and you realize that you're no longer cramming in as much into each of your minutes. You are truly doing the work of 2 or 3 or 4 women right now.

    Do you remember the talk from Elder Holland entitled "Because She is a Mother"? I thought of his words this morning after reading your post. Here is just a little bit from that talk: "When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, “pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,” that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.

    You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be."

    You are doing a marvelous job, Cath. I'll be praying for you today that you can catch a glimpse of that.

    As for being a "patient mother", maybe being patient with ourselves and our humanity (with all its limits) is an integral part of it all.

    I love the image of light shining through our cracks. Thank you for that.

    Sorry for this rambling, meandering comment. Just know that you loved by many and that your love for your kids is sweet and precious and will be the ultimate thing that remains.

    xoxo Wish I lived down the road. I would put my arms around you and let you know that you are enough.

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    1. One More Thought Anne Marie - The realization that you and your friend "don't yell anymore" was like a beam of light at the end of the tunnel. An epiphany for me too - that it won't always be this way. Such chaos with so many voices vying to be heard. Including mine. Thanks again for your wise perspective. And your email. xoxo

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    2. So, so glad that this thought gave you comfort this weekend, friend. Sending love your direction. You will amaze yourself when these years are past and you reflect on how much you did for so many years. xo

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  11. One last part of Elder Holland's talk I just had to include. I especially love the last part of this quote, tying into your idea of our brokenness.

    "Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.' You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And it will make your children whole as well."

    Love you. Thank you for sharing your heart here.

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  12. With tears sneaking past the corners of my eyes I thank you. I have felt so much of this very thing this past week. My daughters are 3 and 18 months. Not even close to what you are undertaking, but challenging nonetheless. They bicker, they tease, they push. And I'm afraid that when I get worn down that is all I see. I start to miss out on seeing the spontaneous hugs, the older sister running a bottle of milk to the younger when she is crying, the gut laughing when all is well as they play together (even if it only lasts 20 seconds!) Thank you for your candidness. There is always hope when we try again, with Him on our side once more.

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  13. By the way, I love Brad Wilcox's recent talk "His Grace Is Sufficient". Makes you want to dust yourself off and try again.

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  14. Just reading the word 'Grace' made me feel healing. Thank you for your always healing posts.

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  15. i love this reminder that it is the cracks that let in the light. this is wise to know and tough to embrace.

    just know that YOU are what THEY need. just the way you are. call me. xox

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  16. Cath, I know you don't view your life circumstance as a "prison" per se or even as a miserable circumstance by any means....but sometimes we feel imprisoned by the limits of our bodies and minds and abilities during tough challenges. I read this quote by Elder Holland last week (from a talk about turning prisons into temples) - and I really liked it:

    "...Does it strike us that spiritual experience, revelatory experience, sacred experience can come to every one of us in all the many and varied stages and circumstances of our lives if we want it, if we hold on and pray on, and if we keep our faith strong through our difficulties? We love and cherish our dedicated temples and the essential, exalting ordinances that are performed there. We thank heaven and the presiding Brethren that more and more of them are being built, giving more and more of us greater access to them. They are truly the holiest, most sacred structures in the kingdom of God, to which we all ought to go as worthily and as often as possible.

    But tonight’s message is that when you have to, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced. "

    The hardest days are the ones that produce the sweetest, softest and most tender miracles. I know you know it. You are doing an amazing job!

    I know you've gotten quotes and advice galore - but it really helped me a few days ago, so I thought I'd send it along with my love and prayers. :)

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  17. Elizabeth - You're so right. Most evenings I have the strength and reserves to cope with all the mayhem. But occasionally we have a few nights that are just beyond bad. I mean, you'd have to see it to believe it... bad. And Tues and Weds were some of those nights. And as Anne Marie mentioned, I was running a bit on empty. All sorts of factors come into play. But I appreciate your encouragement so much. I would love to hear your thoughts on patience. What helps you be patient? And anyone else want to offer some thoughts?

    Anne Marie - I loved your sharing of Elder Holland's words here. And your constant, sweet encouragement is a true gift to me. This paragraph helped me turn a corner yesterday afternoon: "You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be." Wow. Honest effort. What more can we give? Thank you. And I hope you got my email. You are in tune and good and I appreciate so much your understanding. I'm looking forward to asking my OB some more questions this month about menopause and where I ought to go next. I have no doubt that is having its own affect. And your second quote about faith making our children whole as well? What a comfort. I am so grateful you shared all that you did yesterday. I love you.

    Meleana - what sweet words. I'm convinced it doesn't take five children to give you days like this. It just takes being a mother. Some days are their own unique test. It is hard. Loved all the "gifts" you noted in your comment. So sweet. And I will have to find Wilcox's talk on Grace. Thank you.

    Candice - It is healing, isn't it? Just thinking about it. xo

    Cristie - I'm going to stop by one of these days. I miss seeing your face. Enough virtual. I want to give you a hug.

    Melissa - "You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings..." I ought to expect and seek out this communication more. I believe he's always talking, always communicating. It's just me and my own set of weaknesses that mire me down enough I don't hear. I love your heart. Thank you for sharing this. It has opened me to even more light. I hope you're well. You and baby. xoxo love you.

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  18. Oh, Cath, I do love reading your wise words. You're an inspiration to me, and I'm grateful for the real and faithful glimpse into your struggles you share with the world. I must admit, with Anne Marie, I don't yell as much as I used to either. It does happen, and I am sad when it does, but I am not pushed to my very end NEARLY as much as when the children were all little. It gets easier. It really does. And then they get their driver's permits and you worry about that, and you worry about dating, and drugs and porn and alcohol and failing school and on and on and on...

    BUT IT'S NOT AS HARD.

    Love you.

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  19. Beautiful. Thank you. I needed this.

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  20. Again Cath, you express what we all feel so perfectly that it makes us cry because we have been there, we are there, we do that, we have done that, we understand. It touches us all to the very core.

    So patient mothering? In my opinion, it is just what you wrote. It is understanding yourself, and being patient with yourself. Knowing that everyday will not be perfect, and that we as mothers will not always be perfect, but we keep doing what is right because we believe in time, it will all be worth it. We are practicing patience in waiting for the fruits of our efforts. I know I lack patience as a mother when I am not patient with myself - when I want something to be perfect, and it's not. Just write what is from your heart like you always do. I would much rather read something "real", then read something "ideal" about never loosing my cool or patiently cleaning up every mess and responding patiently to every child's demands. Knowing I'm not the only one that has to practice "patience" makes me be more patient. Patience in understanding...if that makes sense.
    Love you Cath. How blessed you are to have daughters that express that same love in return. Darling notes. They LOVE you!

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  21. Wow! That was so beautiful. Found your site from a comment left on Clover Lane. Your writing is amazing. I loved your honesty in this post and feel the same way so often, but would not be able to put it into words like that. Thanks for helping me realize I'm not in this alone.

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  22. Cath, this is amazingly beautiful stuff here. I feel so cracked right now too, so imperfect in my mothering. I have to hope (and pray) that the Atonement will somehow make my kids whole from all of my imperfections. I believe it will, but in the mean time I spend a lot of time feeling pretty lousy about myself. I guess I need to allow Grace and light in. THanks for being so honest and making me feel like I'm not the only one. I love you. And, thanks for getting such a great conversation going here in the comments. This is just what I needed tonight.

    Miss you.

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