Many years ago we had a freezer in our car port that I kept popsicles in. My kids could help themselves while they were playing outside with their friends on a hot, summer’s day. My children were generous and always offered their friends popsicles too, which was fine with me. One day I happened to look out the window to see neighborhood kids helping themselves to our popsicles. None of my kids were around. I was upset that these children felt free to get popsicles without asking or being offered them by my children. Money was always tight for us. I am ashamed to say I thought, “How can we ever save money to feed the hungry and poor of the world when everyone just feels free to help themselves to the things in our freezer.” Instantly I had the thought come to me, “You are feeding the hungry and poor of the world.” I immediately saw the situation in a different way. These sweet little children came from good homes with very little in worldly terms. Their mother had severe health challenges and any extra money went to medical bills. Letting them eat popsicles from our freezer was nothing in the scheme of things but a small service to another of God’s children. I learned a great lesson that day.
Sometimes we think, as I did, that service is something we do on a grand scale or something involving a stranger or group of needy people. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that service can be little things to the people around us. I remember a talk given in General Conference in October 2017 by Bonnie Oscarson. She recounted the story of a women who had collected quilts and drove a truck, full of quilts, from London to Kosovo to deliver them. While driving home she received the following inspiration “What you have done is a very good thing. Now go home, walk across the street and serve your neighbor.” This concept teaches me to serve where and how I can, even if it just involves a popsicle.
There are so many different ways to help others. Over the years there have been several times when I have met someone and I felt like I was supposed to be her friend for a while, and that the friendship wouldn’t be long lasting. These were quiet impressions, but as I acted on them, and developed friendships with each of these women I could see the hand of the Lord operating through me to help them. None of the things that happened were grand or large in scale. Mostly it was just being a friend. But it demonstrated to me that God knows each of His children and loves them. Since I was willing, He used me to bless some else’s life. The really funny thing about this is that each time this happened I was strengthened in my testimony of God’s love for His children, and my own life was blessed. Our loving Heavenly Father, who knows everything, knows that the giver and the receiver are both blessed. Kind of like a two-for-one deal.
Since that popsicle experience many years ago I have learned that there are many ways to serve. I know now that the poor and hungry of the world are often in my own neighborhood, and that service doesn’t have to be big or grandiose. Little things, like letting a neighbor child enjoy a treat from a freezer also blesses the life of the one giving the service. That was over 23 years ago and I still feel a connection to that little boy who is now a man with his own children. When we have eyes to see and ears to hear He will guide us to those we can help. As we try to follow Him, as we try to serve, in some small way, as He did we will be blessed too. When we serve where and how we can we will be making a difference in the world and in our own lives.
I grew up hearing a lot of expressions that I don’t hear much any more. Things like “were you born in a barn?” if I left the door open. “You make a better door that you do a window” if I was standing in someone’s view of the TV. I often heard “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” implying that I would get what I wanted easier with a kinder mouth. I heard that one a lot! Usually it was because I was being bossy, which is one of the problems with being the oldest child. My usual response to that one was “why would I want a bunch of flies anyway.” Obviously I was sometimes bossy and mouthy.
Sometimes these kind of expressions make no sense. “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water” had me stumped for years until I realized it was saying don’t throw out the good with the bad. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” helps people get their needs or wants met, but I usually replied, “yes, but it’s also the first one to be replaced.” Sometimes I had a problem with being told what to do too. Another saying that I heard frequently was “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” meaning don’t spend your money before you have it. All of these sayings communicate pretty clearly what the speaker wants you to know.
There are a lot of different expressions like these. And it makes me wonder how these expressions came about. Who makes up these expressions? How do they get started? So I looked up the ‘baby in the bath water’ expression and it originated in Germany in the 1500s and implied the concept of not discarding good ideas with bad ideas. It seems that some of these expressions have been around for a long time. One website I found had 1800 expressions and sayings with their explanations and histories. Who knew there were so many!
All of these sayings use common terms and concepts to communicate an idea. I wonder if these expressions originated to help people communicate ideas more clearly. Humans communicating with humans is always an iffy thing. Sometimes I think I’ve said something very clearly with no room for misinterpretation. I find out later that the person (usually my husband) interpreted what I said in an entirely different way. Miscommunications happen so easily. Expressions can paint pictures in our minds, add reference points. These expressions might help someone understand more clearly what someone is trying to say-to get the point across.
In the bible we read that Christ often taught people using parables. These parables helped His listeners to understand His doctrine and teachings more clearly. Parables seem to be related to expressions that are in common to us, as they use ideas, concepts and cultural references to convey a message. Of course, some thought Christ was merely telling nice stories but the careful listener got the intended message. Maybe that’s the secret to really understanding the message of the speaker: careful listening. Sometimes I’m thinking of what I’m going to say back to someone instead of really focusing on what he or she is saying. I’m more interested in getting my message across instead of trying to understand another person.
So maybe I need to “strike while the iron is hot’ when someone is “spilling the beans” and “read between the lines.” Listening to someone really is a “labor of love.”
Mother’s Day is almost here again. There are lots of different ways that people celebrate Mother’s Day. It is also a day that often evokes a lot of emotions as we think about our mothers, and also think about the hard work and sacrifices that raising children involves.
We often hear sermons in church meetings about those sacrifices and about the virtues of motherhood. And while motherhood truly is a divine calling, sometimes it is presented in an idealized version, and it’s hard for some women to feel like they measure up. Some may leave the meeting feeling a little sad or like a failure. I know in the past I have struggled with some of these feelings. Sometimes after these kind of talks I felt like I just needed to work harder, or listen better or even teach better. Of course I always needed more patience, and my lacking seemed so apparent.
Sometimes in the middle of something it is hard to have perspective. Looking back I realize I did the best I could at the time. That involved good things and sometimes, not so good things. Generally I am at peace about my mothering efforts.
So my goal here is not to paint a picture of a perfect mother because really, there is no such thing. I also don’t want to dwell on negative things. I do want to tell you about two women from the bible from whom I have learned some things.
The first one is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. I have always wondered how Christ knew who He was, even as a child. How did He know that He was the Savior of the World, The Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father? I pondered that for quite a while when one day it occurred to me that He would have learned it from his mother. She would have told Him of her experience with the angel and of His heavenly origins. It was she who taught Him who He was. Mary inspires me, and from her I have learned the importance of teaching my children who they are and what they are to become.
Another woman from the scriptures that I admire is Eve. I think about her bearing children without a mother or another woman there to help her. How lonely and hard it must have been to not have had another woman to talk things over with and to learn from. She had no precedence-no guide books to baby care, no how-to-survive a teenager manual and no one to guide her on parenting. It really was a learn-as-you-go situation. It was just Adam and Eve working as a team and trying to figure it out together. From Eve I learn that I can keep on mothering even when I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, and trying to figure it out. I also learn the importance of working as a full partnership with my husband.
There are other things I have learned from these two women, as well as other women in the scriptures. I don’t think either of these two women were perfect, even though they were both really good women. Since there is no such thing as a perfect mother, they obviously weren’t that either. From Mary, Eve and also the many good women in my life, I have learned is that you don’t have to be perfect to be a good mother. There are many ways to be a good mom and I bet you’re doing better than you think.