On a hot summer night in July, my sisters and I escaped the stuffy house to sleep on the deck where the canyon breezes could flow over us. A little after 4:00 in the morning I felt my mother shaking me. Even though I was barely awake, I climbed out of my sleeping bag and sleepily stumbled down the stairs to the basement. There we stretched out in front of the television.
What would compel us to drag ourselves from peaceful slumber? It could only the most magical and exciting event that had ever happened in our world, a royal wedding.
We were soon wide-awake watching the spectacle. The Princess Diana was so beautiful. How I wished I could be one of the flower girls with a dress so much like the princess’s. It was all like a fairy tale, from the horse-drawn carriage to the kiss and wave from the palace balcony.
It was on that balcony that I saw for the first time the prince’s grandmother, the Queen Mother. I only noticed her in her pastel dress and hat as part of the backdrop for Charles and Diana. She was always there in the background with the royal family, and it wasn’t until after her death that I learned the important role she played in her country when once upon a time she had stepped from the background into the spotlight.
In 1936, Elizabeth Bowles-Lyons, then the Duchess of York, stepped from her quiet life into the role of queen as her husband Prince Albert ascended to the throne when his older brother Edward abdicated. It was during the ensuing years when Britain faced the threat of German invasion that Queen Elizabeth endeared herself to her people and earned a most unusual title from her enemy.
During the war she refused to be intimidated by the Nazis, and while other European kings and queens fled their homelands she declared, “I shall not go down like the others.” Her radio messages brought hope to many living under Nazi occupation and at home she took action in whatever way she could. When London was bombed she and the King refused to leave, and then went daily to bombsites to comfort and strengthen their people.
Because of the hope and optimism that she inspired in the people of Britain and the world Hitler called her the most dangerous woman in Europe. She wasn’t dangerous because she had a brilliant military mind or a weapon of mass destruction. She was dangerous to Hitler because she recognized evil for what it was — a plot to destroy her kingdom and enslave her people.
I've thought often about this woman who took her place and made a difference at a critical time in the history of this world. I believe that the time we live in and the battles we face daily in defense of our home and families are no less critical than the ones Queen Elizabeth faced. I have wondered if like her we could be considered dangerous women.
Do we recognize evil for what it is, a plot to destroy our homes and enslave our families? Does the work we do put us in active opposition to that plot? But then could the work we do so routinely in our homes actually be dangerous to the enemy? How could wiping noses and tears, patching knees and playing games, rocking and reading make a difference?
As I walked away from the September 2002 General Relief Society Conference, I wondered how many times I would need to be told that the little things I am doing are the most important things before I really believed it. At that meeting Sister Parkin, the General Relief Society President, reminded us, "When it comes to families, we cannot afford indifference and distraction. Childhood is a vanishing wonder ... Sisters, the Lord needs women who will teach children to work and learn and serve and believe. Whether they are our own or another's, we must stand up and state, "Here am I; send me to watch over your little ones, to put them first, to guide and protect them from evil, to love them" (Ensign, November 2002, 105).
Do we really need reminding that mothering is so vital and so dangerous to Satan's plot? I think we do. Somehow with the fast-paced, instant gratification mode of our lives we too often forget that the slow, steady work of mothering is the greatest work we could do. Perhaps it is the extraordinary ordinariness of the work that leads us to believe that anyone could do it as well.
It's no wonder we struggle to find significance in these tasks when we have learned so perfectly that what has value and is rewarded is what gets done and a mother's work is never done. You see receiving rewards for work is how the world is run. At school it is the finished work that gets the praise, the star, the ‘A.’ No one pats you on the back for the process; it is the product that gets the smiley face.
Jobs for hire have the same kind of system. You don't get stars and grades, but if nothing else you get a paycheck. You can hold in your hand the product of your work. Your work is worth something. For twenty-seven years I lived this system of working, producing and receiving rewards. Then I became a mother.
A little bundle of warmth and love entered my life and took it over completely. I happily entered this job of mothering; it was exactly what I had always wanted. I had hoped and prayed for the day I could stay home and raise a houseful of little children. What I didn't realize was that old ways would be so hard to replace.
It was hard for me to give up producing and receiving tangible rewards, for works in progress and rewards of the heart. Motherhood is full of rewards; they are simply not the kind I was accustomed to. My children's laughter, their smiles and sweet voices, the family sitting around the table for dinner, a sleeping babe in my arms at the end of the day, these are rewards that are held in the heart, not in the hand.
There are still times I panic and feel certain that I need to be producing something, having something to show for my work. I start setting goals and rampaging through the lives of my family trying to accomplish things. My children, my constant barometers, quickly show me that they will have none of it and call me back to enjoying the process with them.
It is loving the process of life that takes some relearning. Children instinctively understand that process is more important than product. The stacking of blocks is more important than the tower. The smooshing and squooshing of finger paint on paper is more important than the painting. The singing is more important than the song.
Still, I struggle with this concept all the time. I wish I knew that I was doing exactly the right things for my children. Yet, that is not the nature of the job. It is a work of patience and faith not only with our children, but with ourselves as well.
Nature has something to teach us about this patience with the process. Anyone who has been to Arches National Monument can't help but be awestruck by the beauty of the place. It is a wonder how the wind and water have carved and molded their way through the soft sandstone, creating amazing arches and canyons. These were not produced in a moment, by a mighty blast of wind or one torrential rainstorm. It was day by day, year by year, a drop here and a breeze there. The wind and the rain may have only taken a few grains of sand from the stone, but little by little their work was accomplished. Now generations of people can look with wonder upon their work
I like to think that I am like the wind and the rain upon the soft souls of my children. My work is done day by day, year by year, a touch here, and a gentle word there. I may not see the effects of my work for years to come, and yet my heart whispers that I am doing something of great importance.
Not only does my heart whisper this truth to me, but also the scriptures reaffirm that belief. I love the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 64:33 that states, "Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." Believe me, I get weary often and wonder if I am doing anything great. But I take the Lord at his word that out of small things, like my little ones, will precede something great.
Something President Henry B. Eyring said also gives me hope. “I never see a mother juggling three little children who are crying while she is smiling, as she shepherds them gently, without seeing in my mind's eye her day of honor in the presence of the only Judge whose praise will finally matter" (Ensign, October 2002, 19).
So perhaps the work I do in my home really is the most dangerous to the enemy of our souls. For I, a mother in a remote corner of this world, do a work of true significance. I nurse a baby, play in the sun with my children, read them stories, hold them, hug them, sing lullabies, teach and train them.
Like the work of nature, my work may also seem insignificant. However, I am not working to produce something for today. My work is to build something that will last beyond time. I touch the soul of a child and that will make all the difference in the world.
Though my work is never done, the results of my work never end either. They extend through time and eternity for generations to come. And when the day comes that I meet the Judge whose praise I most treasure I hope he will say, "You were a most dangerous woman in my cause."
(This article is originally from Meridian Magazine. It was emailed to me quite awhile ago, and has been sitting in my inbox because I don't want to lose it. I do, however, want to clean out my inbox. Where better to store this for safe-keeping than my blog?)