Today’s post is from Small Seed team member Kim Stoddard. Collaborating with her is Carli Lawler from Letters and Laurels, who has made a beautiful print that you can download for free at the end of the post! Thank you Kim and Carli!
I believe that the amount of grace I embrace in my own motherhood depends on the amount of grace I am offering to those around me. Let me explain with a little scenario that might sound familiar to some of us. It goes something like this:
You are asked to bring treats to your child’s class party. “You bet! I can totally do that,” you respond when asked. You dutifully put it on your calendar and make a mental note of the awesome treats you want to make. Then life happens, and you completely forget until you are going through your child’s folder the morning of the party. No! The crazy busy day you already had planned gets even crazier and you are left with no choice but to stop at the grocery store and buy cookies. As you walk into the school with your little container of sugar cookies (that you didn’t even have time to put on one of your own plates), of course the mom with the picture-perfect Pinterest treats has to walk in at the same time and place her masterpiece right next to your . . . non-Pinterest, non-masterpiece cookies. You look down at your offering and…
a) You are immediately flooded with embarrassment and guilt. You beat yourself up for being the lame parent that can’t get it together. Then you start throwing imaginary darts at the mom who always has it all together. She is always _______. She is so ________. Then you turn the darts on yourself… I am such a _______. I am so________.
b) You greet her warmly and ask her how her day is going. You compliment her on the beautiful treats she made (and you really mean it). You dismiss any negative thoughts about yourself because you know the type of day you have had, and you know that the type of treat you bring to school has absolutely no reflection on your personal worth or your parental capacities. You are full of love and grace for her and for yourself.
Feelings of inferiority and inadequacy seem to come at us in a variety of contexts. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves constantly comparing — her baby sleeps through the night at 2 months, mine still doesn’t at 2 years. She vacations to exotic places 3 times a year, I’ve never taken my kids out of the state. She has all the money she needs, we are barley scraping by. She is a faithful gym-goer with the body to prove it, I can’t exercise because of health problems. She is always doing fun things with her girlfriends, I feel lonely and not accepted a majority of the time.
Where do these thoughts and feelings come from? “… Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, [whose sole purpose is] to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will” (Moses 4:4), the guy who’s only desire is “that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
In contrast to Satan, who lies, deceives, and only wants us to be miserable, God declares “Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Greek philosopher Epictetus said “God hath made all men to be happy.” ALL MEN. Not just the ones who have the body, or make the treats, or spend the money. God wants joy for us, and not just because of the things we do or accomplish, but because of inherently who we are, and the relationships we create and cultivate with each other. When we compare ourselves to others, bringing them or us down, we are taking that joy out of our lives.
Please, don’t fall into the comparison trap. Its ropes will suffocate you! Jeffery R. Holland pleads, “Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.” When we are filled with envy and pride, there is no room for love of others or Godlike love for ourselves.
In a similar vein, I love the quote by C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, where he says, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
However, just as important as not putting ourselves above others, we cannot put ourselves below others.
Can you see the relationship between the way we see others and the way we view ourselves? Isn’t it liberating to know that judgment is not under our jurisdiction? Our task is simply to “love one another, as I have loved you”(John 13:34). Viewing the people around you as teammates instead of opponents creates opportunities for growth, learning, strengthening, and love.
A dear friend of mine exudes this type of love. Last week we swapped babysitting so that we could visit a mutual friend who had just had a baby. Because of unforeseen events, I had called her about 3 times to change the times I would need to drop my little girl off. Each time she responded with kindness and understanding “No problem…. we can’t wait to have her… we will just be playing… you just do what is easiest for you….” As a mom who likes to be on a schedule, I know it’s not easy to adjust plans (especially 3 times), but I could feel that she genuinely cared about my schedule just as much as hers. She really just wanted to make things easier for me. As I pulled up to drop my daughter off, I saw my friend out in her yard with a whole bunch of little girls building houses and tunnels out of cardboard boxes. My little girl squealed as she ran off to play. My friend had every reason not to extend me grace. I had added to her inconvenience of watching my daughter by changing times on her, which I’m sure sabotaged her entire day. However, she emanated nothing but love and thoughtfulness towards me and my little girl.
As I thought about her goodness, a quote from Neill F. Marriott came to mind, “Love is making space in your life for someone else…. Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby – and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them – but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a ‘mother’ before she had children. I believe that ‘to mother’ means ‘to give life.’ Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter.”
Regardless of where we are in life right now, as we nurture and offer grace to each other we are mothers!
God has created a garden of diverse and uniquely beautiful women. He is the sun who gives light and life to the garden, and it is our privilege to help Him cultivate and nurture each other. I hope that we never withhold that grace and nurturing from each other because our hearts are too full of comparison! I know that as we offer the Savior’s grace to those around us, we will in turn find that there is more than enough grace for us as well.
Thank you Kim, and thank you to Carli from Letters and Laurels for sharing the beautiful print from this post, free to download below! You can connect with Carli at her etsy shop here, or over on instagram @lettersandlaurels.