The Parable of the Omelet

Did you know that at Golden Corral, you can ask for a whole-egg omelet instead of having them use that pre-prepped egg mixture? Not many people must request this. I watched, both fascinated and appalled, as one girl smacked a raw egg against the edge of the bowl about a dozen times before finally letting the innards slide into the bowl. Then she’d peer in and pick out all the shards of eggshell one at a time and throw them away. I assumed that with the second egg, she’d alter her method, but no. CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK. PICK-PICK-PICK-PICK-PICK-PICK-PICK. As she did the same thing all over again with the third egg, my mouth was literally hanging wide open. WHY would she smash each egg to smithereens, if she knew she’d have to pains-takingly extract each tiny piece of shell after?

As an expert egg-cracker myself, I know that you only have to gently strike a raw egg against a hard edge ONCE and then pull the two halves apart, and you don’t get any shell pieces in with your egg. It really doesn’t seem like an advanced concept. But maybe she never had her mother show her a better way to do it. Maybe she never really thought about optimizing her method and just assumed that everyone has to pick half the shell out of the slippery mess every time.

I’ve been thinking about how often we beat ourselves up for every perceived failing, thinking that we must be hard on ourselves in order to “force ourselves” to get the results we want in life. Our society teaches us that shame is an effective motivator, and we may not even realize that better methods are available. In my life, I’ve found that being kind and gentle with myself produces a much more favorable outcome. Not only do I feel comforted, loved, and soothed, but my results are better too. I naturally behave more skillfully in the areas that I once shamed myself for, as well as relating with more compassion and love to others, because I have started with myself.

This process has been slow, but I’ve made several shifts in the way I talk to myself. Instead of saying, “You’re so stupid! I can’t believe you said that! You ruin everything. When will you ever learn?” (CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK) I say gently to myself, “It’s okay. You didn’t realize. Everything’s going to be fine. You’re doing the best you can. I love you.” I still “learn my lesson” and make the changes I need to make, but this way, there’s no sharp eggshells in my omelet. I don’t have to go back through and tediously repair the damage I’ve done by contriving to build myself up when I need to have confidence in moving forward with my goals.

I’m far from perfect and often fall back into old shaming habits, both with myself and my family members, but I’m becoming self-aware enough to realize when I’m doing it and make a shift. I’ve learned several tools for self-compassion as I’ve studied this topic, which have revolutionized the way I treat myself, and it’s starting to positively impact all my relationships.

I hope that you will start seeing yourself in a new light, shifting from a critical, judgmental eye to seeing the beauty and greatness that God and others already see in you. If I can support you in some way, please comment or message me. I would love to be your guide on this beautiful and important journey.

Trailing Clouds of Glory

This Sunday is going to be a special day for our family. Our sweet three-month-old baby boy, the sixth member of our family, is getting a special blessing and having his name added to the records of our church. Most of our extended family will be there for the occasion.

This blessing is special because it comes from God, whom we call our Heavenly Father. My husband, our baby’s earthly father, will voice the words of this blessing. As he is tuned into Heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit, the words to say will come into his mind. In these blessings, babies are typically blessed with health, wisdom, loving relationships, spiritual qualities, and more. I’m really looking forward to our baby receiving this gift from his loving fathers.

Our baby (whom we’ve nicknamed “Wally” to protect his identity online) has been an absolute joy to have in our family. My other children constantly fawn over him to the extent that I’m afraid they might smother him! Wally has brought such an innocence, sweetness and purity with him. He is yet untainted by the darkness of the world.

utah-newborn-photographer-roberts-29

We believe that babies can still recollect their previous existence with their Father in Heaven, and that if they could speak, they would be able to communicate some pretty wondrous things. The knowledge of these things must be hidden from us during this mortal life so that we may develop faith and other spiritual qualities which allow our characters to become more and more like that of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We believe that this process of growth, along with forming and strengthening family ties, is the reason we came to this Earth.

My favorite poem ever is William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” The complete poem is hundreds of lines long (and well worth the read), but these few lines, the most well-known in the poem, perfectly capture my beliefs about babies and our life before birth:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

220px-william_wordsworth_at_28_by_william_shuter2The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

When we see these babies, in their nakedness and helplessness, it may be easy to assume that they have forgotten everything about where they existed previously. And yet…there’s something they bring with them–God’s love and purity. I can picture the imagery of the clouds of His glory trailing behind these babies as they come into our arms and dispersing gradually as the child grows outside of His presence.

The poem continues through the life of a growing nameless Boy, who recollects at times that light which he was surrounded by at birth. The Imagination is that light of God working through our minds in our childhood, which then morphs into the exalted Reason of the adult mind. Man is whole and complete when he is able to bring reason and the imagination into harmony with each other.

Holding sweet baby Wally is often a spiritual experience for me as I reflect on how recently he was in the very presence of God. Before we will be able to feel comfortable in our Heavenly Father’s presence someday, we need to return to this innocent and pure state. Many adults think that childhood is something to “grow out of.” While there are “child-ish” things we need to leave behind, there are so many “child-like” qualities that we need to develop and embrace. I love this scripture from the Book of Mormon which outlines these qualities:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. -Mosiah 3:19

I feel humbled and honored as a mother to be in the presence of these exalted little ones. While it is my duty to teach them a great many things, they teach me things that are even more important. They exemplify unconditional love. If I don’t relearn how to love this way, as I did as a child, it won’t matter what else I accomplish in this life. It truly is the smallest, weakest, and simplest things through which God manifests that which is grandest and most glorious.

30 Things I Love About My Husband

This is a great time of year to focus on strengthening relationships. One of the best ways to do this is being mindful about what we love about the other person and why we’re grateful to have them in our lives. While writing this list of things I love about my husband, I found that my love for him really grew. It was such a simple thing to do, but made a big difference in how I see him.

30 Things I Love About My Husband:

  1. He is a very loving father to our four precious children.
  2. He is awesome at human resource management and has a great career.
  3. He cares deeply about all people.
  4. He has a darling, infectious laugh.
  5. He is a great soccer player and is an awesome coach for our kids’ teams.
  6. He has a talent for cooking without a recipe and throwing ingredients together in a yummy way.
  7. He single-handedly made me a fan of blues music.
  8. He expresses appreciation to me and others often for the things we do.
  9. He gives great hugs.
  10. He thinks about what he is going to say before he says it.
  11. He’s a great fly-fisherman.
  12. He likes to hike and enjoy nature.
  13. He follows through in his commitments to others.
  14. He can speak Portuguese and loves the Brazilian people.
  15. He willingly looks for and jumps at opportunities to serve others.
  16. He is very sensitive and gentle.
  17. He (usually) does the dishes after dinner.
  18. He is very generous and giving, especially when it’s a cause he cares about.
  19. When he cleans the house, he is amazingly deep and thorough.
  20. He stays connected with friends and family.
  21. He is unfailingly honest.
  22. He changes diapers.
  23. His chocolate-brown eyes can make me melt.
  24. He is conscious about what he spends money on.
  25. He has great taste and valuable input in decorating our home.
  26. He has always been respectful toward his mom and sister, which is actually one of the first things that attracted me to him.
  27. He is really fun to be around. (When he’s not stressed, anyway!)
  28. He is a great planner and is detail-oriented.
  29. He is a people-watcher and “gets” people.
  30. He is a great example to our boys of the kind of man to grow up to be and to our daughter of the kind of man to seek one day.

I could have gone way past 30, but you get the idea. Valentine’s Day is a great time to try an exercise like this, but it’s good to do any time of the year, especially when in one of those ruts of relationship negativity. You could also write down one thing every day that you love about your partner, which habit will prime your brain to look for and be aware of more positive things about him or her.

Whenever possible, share what you wrote with the other person, or shout it to the world, like I’ve done here! It made me feel so good when he wrote this list about me last year and posted it to Facebook:

On her birthday, here are 29 reasons why I love my wife:
1. She rocks (as in her great taste in music)
2. She loves me even when I do dumb things
3. She has such beautiful eyes
4. She is great at expressing her thoughts and feelings through her writing
5. She is better than anyone I know at finding a good deal on things we need
6. She helps our kids learn by getting out and exploring their world
7. She deeply cares about her friends and family
8. She gives a great back massage
9. She has a great drive for learning
10. She is very conscious about providing healthy food to her family
11. She loves the outdoors
12. She started her own business this last year
13. She strives to increase and improve her spirituality
14. She loves to explore new and different foods with me
15. She has put up with me for over 10 years
16. She is good at recording the cute and funny things our kids do
17. She is very empathetic and caring
18. She has a gorgeous smile
19. She supports me in both my wins and failures
20. She has caught a fish on a fly rod
21. She is committed to helping others improve themselves
22. She loves making her own sushi and sharing with friends
23. She helps keep me in check and remembering what is important
24. She likes staying fit and exercising
25. She helps me feel loved every day
26. She has a passion for traveling
27. Have I mentioned how beautiful she is?
28. She is great at serving others when they are in need
29. She is the best friend and wife I could ever ask for and I feel extremely grateful to have her in my life

When he saw that I had literally one-upped him when he read what I was writing tonight, he said “Game on.” I think I know what that means, and I like it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Don’t Teach the Colt to Fall Over!

My past couple weeks have been filled by potty-training my two-year-old, who turns three in a couple months. As other parents who’ve gone through this know, it’s one of those things that will fail if you try to control it. The child must be ready and be given the opportunity to exercise authority over himself. The parents’ jobs are to provide support and guidance, make it fun and stay positive. Which isn’t easy to do, especially after multiple accidents! My little Toad ignores me or shuts down the moment I get stern or serious with him, so he’s teaching me the value of a light, bright, good-natured approach to life.

Earlier this year I took a Parent Personality Assessment and found that I scored high in the attitudes of Controlling and Superiority, and low in Pleasing and Comforting. I want things done my way, and when my expectations aren’t met, I tend to correct and lecture others. This invites power struggles with my children, and as soon as you’ve entered one of those, nobody wins! Simply becoming aware of my natural inclinations as a parent has helped me make better choices in the moment.

My four-year-old son, Buddy, is very strong-willed. A few weeks ago, when my husband was out of town, both my sons were being noisy in church, so I took them out. I held them tightly on my lap, but Buddy just kept screaming. I covered his mouth with my hand, so he started to kick me. I grabbed his legs with my other arm, so he started bucking his head back. This made it very uncomfortable and difficult with a protruding pregnant belly and another child to the side of me! My hand on his mouth wasn’t muffling very much of his noise, and I must have looked pretty ridiculous trying to wrangle that kid with my skirt and heels on.

That’s when a sweet friend left the meeting to come to the rescue. She knelt down on his level, talked to him soothingly, and asked him if he’d like to see if there were any treats in her bag. Buddy composed himself immediately. Then she took him by the hand, led him back in to the congregation, and let him pick some candies for himself and his siblings before sending him back to me. She was a great example of gentleness and kindness, and her way ended up being much more effective than mine!

I see a lot of my parenting attitudes in this story, recounted by M. Russell Ballard:

Please remember the experience of a friend of mine. He had never owned a horse in his life until he married a wonderful woman who loves horses. Wanting to impress his new bride, he announced one evening that he was going to the pasture to teach a colt how to be led. He weighed more than the colt. He knew more than the colt. He assumed all he would need to do was pull on the lead rope and sooner or later the colt would follow. He was confident that the process would be short and simple.

He attached the lead rope to the halter, got in front of the colt, and pulled. The colt resisted. My friend pulled harder, and the colt planted his legs more firmly. So he really pulled, and the colt fell over. The process was repeated several times until my friend made this assessment: in just four or five minutes he had successfully taught the colt to fall over. All he had to do was get in front of the colt, pick up the rope, and over it would go.

His wife, watching this process, finally suggested that instead of getting in front of the colt and pulling, he might try wrapping the rope around the colt and simply walking alongside. To my friend’s chagrin, it worked.

There seems to be something inside each of us that resists being told or pushed or pulled. But if someone puts an arm around [us] and walks alongside [us], [we are] likely to follow.

Like little horses, children want to be led and guided, but not pulled nor forced. This is true not just of children, but of all people. I’m sure we’ve all felt the resistance and resentment that builds up when others try to control us, as well as the eagerness we feel to follow a leader whom we know loves us, listens to us, and cares about us. Joseph Smith expressed this beautifully when he said,

Nothing is so much calculated to lead people…as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power is has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.

As we lead children in love and gentleness, we will be able to see them for who they really are as magnificent spirits, and we’ll be more receptive to the many lessons they have to teach us. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made, and that I keep making, is seeing my children as “just children” rather than the glorious spiritual beings, my equals, that they truly are. Though these spirits are housed in small, unskilled bodies, they have a light about them and an ability to love unconditionally that most adults have forgotten. As I change my perspective from seeing myself as “in charge” of them, to seeing them as my own exalted spiritual teachers, I grow in amazing ways and enjoy happy, flourishing relationships with them.