Friday, August 2, 2013

The End Will Be Better Than the Beginning

Yesterday I was alone again.

Lyndsay left to have lunch with a friend, spend time with her boyfriend, and then head to work. Conor left with his dad around 2pm.

I don't mind being by myself, don't misunderstand. I'm perfectly content to be in my home with no one else here. My books alone provide me great companionship and escape.

But last night, after a long day of job searching and submitting applications, followed by a few hours of reading to unwind, a very heavy feeling of despair swept over me. Total aloneness.

Sometimes I struggle with feelings of abandonment. These feelings stem from several sources: the majority of my family abandoning the faith I was raised in (being united in our religion always brought me deep feelings of security, even when more temporal affairs were shaky); my first husband leaving me, leaving the family we had created; my children growing up and making decisions that are contrary to what I have taught them; losing a second marriage and family. All of these events in my life sometimes rear their ugly heads in the quiet of my mind to say, "You are alone. Nobody wants to be with you. You are rejected. Nothing you have done has ever mattered, will ever matter."

The worst demon. The enemy of my soul. He is real, and so very convincing.

Above my bed, hang framed pencil sketches that my mother did of each of my children as babies. They are one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given, and usually they bring me such comfort.

But last night, I looked up into the eyes of my precious babies and just missed them so much. The days of Little Ones. The days before Everything. Fell. Apart. The days of homeschooling them and hearing them play, and feeling the security of our family all together. The days of bath night with three kids in the tub, and then jammies and stories, and tucking them into bed. The days of feeling like the future would only get brighter. A reward for the investment of dedicated and purposeful motherhood.

Truthfully, the days before any real agency on their part took effect.

I do realize that without the trial of the first family falling apart, that last framed picture up there of Conor would not be there. And I had garnered my faith to believe in second chances. The children were all still young and impressionable, and things seemed to still be manageable, if not ideal.

But last night, everything felt so useless, so fragmented. And I felt so good-for-nothing. So disposable, even in the lives of my children. I have such personal worries about each of them, individually. Sometimes they come crashing down upon me, and when they do, they bring with them a huge amount of guilt.

If only I had been different.

And all of this is to tell you that Heavenly Father knows my heart. And He knows yours.

I sank onto my bed last night, weeping tears of anguish. "What is the point of my life?" I wailed. "What have I done that has mattered? Will things only get sadder and more discouraging? Will my children just continue to reject all that I have taught them, offered them? I have no one! No one to lean on, no one to help me. There is opposition all around me and it seems to have much more influence than I do."

I cried for a long time. And then I fell asleep.

After my shower this morning, I had the feeling to put in a Conference talk instead of the morning news, as I usually do. I debated, really, because finding the DVDs from Conference are a bit more work than simply turning on the television. But I knew I probably needed something uplifting to start my day off right, and the feeling was insistent. The set of talks I had in my room were from 2009 and 2010. I went with 2010 and chose the talks from the Sunday session. When presented with the menu screen, I clicked over to the afternoon session, scrolled down a few talks, and selected the talk by Robert D. Hales, about parenthood being a duty to God. I went into the bathroom and applied my makeup as I listened. I'd heard it before, and it is really good. I even blocked every cynical thought and just listened.

But the next talk was what really hit me. I could swear I've played these DVDs dozens of times and yet I do not remember ever hearing this particular talk, nor could I recall even ever hearing of the member of the Seventy who gave it, Bradley D. Foster. I heard him begin with a story from his life of being raised by a single mother (because his father passed away at a young age). He spoke of the importance of motherhood, even apart from fatherhood or parenthood. He said that his mother taught her four children to follow the paths of the Lord in all things and that no matter what happened, the end would be better than the beginning.

When he said that, I felt distinctly heard and understood by my Father in Heaven, who was reaching down to encourage me. "Here is what you need to know," He said.

The end will be better than the beginning.

"Listen. This is for you," I felt. I left the bathroom and came and sat down on the bed to focus more attentively. He quoted Joseph F. Smith as saying that "The love of a true mother comes near to being like the love of God." 

He said, do not be disheartened if, for a time, one of your children should stray, and do not ever give up, because we do not know when the cares of the world will weary a soul to the point of turning around, and when that soul does turn around, he will most likely turn to mother. He quoted a poem by Elizabeth Akers Allen:

Rock Me to Sleep

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—      
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—   
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—   
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother – rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—      
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—      
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

    Again Elder Foster said, "The end will be better than the beginning." I knew that was for me. That was an answer from God to comfort my troubled heart. He didn't want me to give up. If I hang in there, I will have the glorious opportunity to see with my own eyes that my efforts, imperfect and flawed as they have been (and continue to be) will yield magnificent results in the lives of my children. I should never judge the future by the present. The end will be better.

    I have not altogether failed. Somehow, through the Lord Jesus Christ, all the wrongs will be made right.  This is a new phase of parenting for me. I have to allow my children their agency, and sit back in complete assurance that as they hear the competing voices in their heads, one of those voices will be mine. They may not pick mine every time, but at least I'm in the running! 

    And life is long. 


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post. Thank you for your pure honesty and guiding us to the place where you felt comfort. I have not been what you have been through but know that feeling of "alone".
I have 2 young girls and I will make sure to cherish these moments because I know soon they will be grown and I will wish for them back.
Take Care


Andrea said...

Thank you for sharing. I needed this. My kids are still young but I worry.

I hope you continue to have peace. I hold onto the quote by Elder Holland. "Trust god and believe in good things to come".
I'm going to add the end will be better than the beginning to my favorites.

Garden Anywhere Box said...

Just as you needed to listen to this conference talk, I needed to read your words. I was prompted to visit your blog just before turning in for the night.

I could so relate to what you said about when your children were young and "safe". That is how I feel, too. I have struggled with the decisions that one of my children is making. I know that I have to honor his free agency. These are his choices to make and his learning experiences...but it's so hard sometimes...

I will keep in mind the words from the talk. I have to say that the beginning was pretty good. It's the present that is causing the heartache. For me, I hope that the end will be better than the present.

I pray that you will be comforted and know that you have done the best that you could. I think we all need to remind ourselves of that. We love our children and try to do the best we can with what we have.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for your honesty, Jenna. This was a beautiful post. :)

Luisa Perkins said...

You haven't failed AT ALL. I am so sorry I haven't been there more for you lately. I love you.