I watercolored these signs for my living room a while ago, and every day they remind me of something I hope to never forget.
Before I even had kids I knew above all else I would teach them kindness. To be kind is to think of others first, show love to those around you, have compassion and empathy, to be gentle, and to serve. The kinder a person is, the more beauty they radiate. It is not easy to be kind, and I am not always a very good example to my babies. This is one of my hardest battles with motherhood, that I cannot seem to be kind always. It has been on my mind and in my prayers, and on a day that “kind” seemed worlds away from the mother I felt I was, an answer came. Hope.
I have never really understood why faith and hope were always linked. But that day, I finally did. I realized I had faith that it was possible for a mother to be kind most of the time. I had faith that a person can work hard on something and eventually be really good at it, no matter the circumstance. I had faith that to be kind is a choice, and some people learn to make that choice always. What I didn’t have was hope.
I felt like all I did was pray to be kinder and keep trying to be kind when it was really hard. However, some days found me so tired from no sleep and both kids crying for reasons that were either unfixable or insane and with a studying husband I had barely seen in weeks and feeling so lonely, “be kind, Tessa.” And then, not every time, but often enough I would break. Next would come the thought I am sure most moms let in, “I’ll never do it. I’ll never be kind (good, loving, thoughtful, smart, driven, whatever it is you seem to always strive for but never quite reach) enough.”
I had faith that it was possible to choose kindness always, but I didn’t have hope that I would actually ever choose kindness always. All those prayers I said were traced with a deep dark fear that I would never get there. I would never be the mom that could show her children the one thing she wanted them to be more than anything else. That thought of “never” is despair at its finest. That day I realized all I needed to do was to hope again.
Sometimes our faith doesn’t reach in quite deep enough to pull us out of despair. As I prayed I had faith that my Heavenly Father loves me and could help me and forgive me for not being all I wanted to be, but how many times would He actually want to help me and forgive me? I felt that I couldn’t keep expecting help for something I kept choosing to fail at. When we are swallowed up in this self loathing place, it is only hope that can shine the light on our faith.
Hope is what makes you realize the ONLY one stopping you from being better is yourself, never your Heavenly Father. Hope is what you carry with you right after you mess up for the 50th time that day. Hope is what you trade out for feeling ashamed after doing the thing you told yourself you wouldn’t do. Hope is what tells you today you can do it a little better…hope is what makes you WANT to do it a little better.
Boston is learning to make his bed every day. He is three. Some days he whines and cries and says he can’t do it, he won’t do it. Does this make me think he never will? No. Does it make me love him any less? No.
Some days he makes it, and it looks absolutely terrible. Do I wish he hadn’t even tried? No. Was I ever expecting perfection from him? No, because I know him and understand where he is at in life.
Every once in a while, without me asking, he makes it really neatly. Do I make him feel guilty for all the times before that he he didn’t do it like that? No. I’m absolutely beaming with pride and remind him to never forget how amazing he is.
Heavenly Father is our parent. His grace and love is only more intense than our love for our children. He isn’t expecting perfection or putting us on some eternal “bad” list for complaining and making excuses and messing up. He knows us, and He knows where we are in life and what we are capable of. When we do it right, he fills our hearts with a joy that I believe to be His whisper, “That’s it! That’s who you are! Now be patient with yourself. You have got a lot more messing up to do before you do it that perfect again.” And when we hear His whisper and feel his grace and understanding we can finally let in His charity (that other word linked to hope).
Charity is the perfect love of God. He is rooting for us through it all, just like we do with our babies. Maybe God made women into mothers because He knows how hard we are on ourselves. Maybe He thought if we had a glimmer of how much He loves us to hold on to, then we will have enough hope to keep trying in that moment where we could have let in despair.
So you see? We need faith to know what we are striving for. We need hope to believe we are capable and worth it. We need charity to love ourselves along the way.
Next time you find yourself feeling like you are constantly drowning in all your failing good intentions remember to have hope. Hope to try again, knowing you will very likely fail. It’s ok if your trying is small because you have a lifetime to make it bigger and better.
There may be lots of years that Boston and I battle over his desire to make the bed. In college he may never make the bed once. When he marries, he may only do it every once in a while to impress his girl. One day my baby will be a grey haired old man, and maybe then he will make the bed pretty. I’ll be loving him through it all.
(If you are looking for scriptures to go along with this 1 Corinthians 13:13 &
Moroni 7: 40, Moroni 10:20-22 in the Book of Mormon)