Being Your Best Self
The Fourth of July. I love it. Not like the cute little love that we have for Labor Day barbeques but that big, hearty love we have for Christmas.
There is something about the sun-drenched day that makes my heart soar. I’m sure it goes back to childhood memories and a deep-seated love of country rolled up into a package that makes me giddy thinking about the day. And we celebrate every year by throwing a big party for our family and friends.
I’m not the most pinteresty woman in the world so I don’t have all matching table cloths with wedding-reception worthy centerpieces. I don’t make food in the shape of stars and stripes, all blue, white, and red velvet.
I do prepare LOTS of food, set up LOTS of shade, and invite LOTS of people, but the people and the reason we are there to celebrate are the central figures of our gathering.
Usually we eat, we may play games, we chat, then we have a short patriotic program and watch a family film in the backyard. This year, due to some timing issues and the fact that my youngest was feeling ill, we skipped the movie.
But the program . . . that was the part that made it all worth the work and preparation.
I had invited each of the six families attending to share a song, quote, or story with the group. It wasn’t required, just an invitation.
And just as it was getting dark, we began. A couple of our teenagers who are very talented musicians, played and sang for us. Then our dear friend, a songwriter, sang a gorgeous original song called Freedom’s Our Responsibility. It was so fantastic!
As she was singing, the neighborhood mortars began.
Our family doesn’t do fireworks (we live in a desert, people. A desert that is often plagued by wildfires) but as all our neighbors started into their yearly binge of blowing stuff up, I couldn’t deny the amazing effect it had as the backdrop to our personal form of celebration.
My brother-in-law shared his feelings and pride for his dear sister, a captain in the Air Force, who passed away a few years ago. It was very touching.
Then my little Adventure Boy, my nine-year-old son, recited the famous last paragraph to Patrick Henry’s epic speech. As he quoted, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” with vigor, I found myself tearing up.
Lastly, all forty of us sang our favorite patriotic hymns in four part harmony. My Country Tis of Thee, America The Beautiful, The Battle Hymn of the Republic (with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing backup) and, of course, The Star-Spangled Banner.
The fireworks continued all around us, but in our backyard there was a feeling of deep peace and gratitude. In the midst of the chaos, we were in a sanctuary.
As I looked at our friends and family, these whole, virtuous families that work, worship, play, and serve as family units, and I took in our combined pool of impressive teenagers who were singing along with us, full voice, I had a great swell of hope for the future.
I knew at that moment, that in other backyards and other living rooms, and other family circles, there are those who are going about building up righteous families who will move the cause of liberty.
And I was so grateful to know that we were playing a tiny part in that movement.
Because freedom isn’t won in the supreme court of the voting booth alone, it’s won in the ways we teach our children to respect the flag and all it stands for, to know the history of their country and the sacrifices that brought us here, to believe in the Constitution’s divine origins, and to prepare to defend liberty through their personal choices and community service.
Freedom is won at home, in a backyard, singing patriotic hymns on a hot summer night.
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Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was awesome. The kids and I bought a new suit for King Richard (he hasn’t had a new one in years). He got all dressed up in his snazzy new duds for church and we fed him waffles, hash browns. And Bacon. Of course.
It was relaxed and comfortable and cheerful during our church services. The 10 year olds class all spoke about fathers. One sweet girl whose father hasn’t been part of her life, shared the way that her grandfather and uncle have stepped in and been there for her.
All the dads got Hershey chocolate bars (simple, no fuss no muss) and everywhere I looked I saw smiling, joking dads. These great men who are present in their children’s lives and work daily to provide, preside, and protect their families usually don’t ask for recognition for what they do. They enjoyed that recognition as a perk, but not a requirement. It was wonderful.
What was interesting to me was the contrast to a similar holiday just over a month ago.
On Mother’s Day there is a sense of everyone walking on eggshells. Men prepare anxiously, sure they are going to fail in getting it right. Moms get on Facebook and complain about the failure of their day. At church and even in my family I hear women talk about how much they hate Mother’s Day for a variety of reasons. Here are four common ones:
- “Everyone is talking about how perfect their mother is. Well that’s not me. I’m a horrible mother. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.”
- “All I wanted for Mother’s Day was ___________ and instead all I got was _________.”
- “You’d think my family could act like human beings for one day in the year. Instead I spent Mother’s Day cleaning up bodily fluids and cooking my own dinner.”
- “We shouldn’t talk about being mothers. What about all those women who haven’t had children/don’t want children/have lost children?”
Every one of those statements is valid and I really do get it. I’ve felt many of those things myself over the years. But still, when I see the way the dads in my family, my ward, my community handle Father’s Day I’m reminded that we women can do better.
After all, are we imperfect? Yes! Absolutely. But are we trying our best? That really is what matters. Not just in a pat-you-on-the-back-and-give-you-a-gold-star way, but in a real, ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES way. Doing our best is all Heavenly Father has ever asked of us. He will fill in all our gaps and smooth out our rough spots. Most importantly, He will fill in our children’s gaps that are there because of us. Guilt, when not caused by actual sin, is NOT from our Heavenly Father.
And that ________ you really wanted for Mother’s Day? Is it worth feeling snubbed and bitter over? Is that jewelry/kitchenaid/pair of shoes/bubble bath more important than connecting with your family? I’ve seen women (BEEN the woman) who was so put out about the lack of a gift that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the entire rest of the day. What a wasted opportunity.
Then the kids, yes those messy, noisy, hungry, fighting kids. Yep, those children are the reason we even have this holiday. The fact that we still get to mother them, maybe even make dinner for them, on Mother’s Day is just a testament to the fact that we are SO blessed to have a family. Every. Single. Day.
Lastly, for those women who aren’t yet mothers. I have experienced infertility and been through that heartbreak. For some of us, we are able to finally (after six years for me) find success. For others, that may never happen. It is a pain that only a select few can really understand. And yet. Even in those times we can remember that even if we aren’t mothers, we HAVE mothers. Even if your mother has passed away or is no longer in your life for other reasons, you have a Heavenly Mother. There is always, always someone looking out for and loving you.
Our Bishop (leader of our congregation) said something that made me really think yesterday.
“‘Father’ is the most honorable title a man can have. Even God, the creator of all, who could be and has been called by many, many titles, chooses to have us call Him Father.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
The reality is that if we got into this whole parenting business to get recognition, feel completely sure of ourselves, or have people buy us presents and leave us alone, we aren’t in the right place. Parenting is loud, noisy, messy, smelly, hard, confusing work. It’s also amazing, rewarding, awe-inspiring, sheer joy. Nothing with a reward like that is going to come easy. I think we should be celebrating the fact that we are on this journey if nothing else.
So, to my husband, King Richard, to my super hero dad, Bill, to my sweet, quiet father-in-law, Lawrence, THANK YOU! You set such an example every day of unobtrusive, constant, vigilant service. You are cheerful and never, ever ask for recognition. You appreciate everything we do for you even though it is tiny compared to what you do for us.
Next Mother’s Day, I plan on taking a page out of your book and just relax and enjoy the ride.
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Sometimes you just have to share your thoughts. I run what feels like hundreds (more like ten) websites, all for business or specifically for my books. But almost daily I’ll have something pop into my head and think, I’d really like to have a place to share that idea.
Since Deborah and I do everything together we decided to make this blog a joint venture.We wanted to share our ideas, our pretty creations, our moments of frustration, and our triumphs with others.
For years I’ve been in the front, out where everyone can see me. And people get a really strange view of you like that. They start to think you are perfect (NO!) that you don’t have any challenges (oh, no!) or that you have no flaws (nothing could be farther from the truth).
This is a chance for me and my sister, Queen Emily and Queen Deborah, to share what we love and even how we struggle. Maybe something we have to say will encourage you or at least make you laugh along with us. And that is a pretty noble thing.
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