What Matters Most (It’s Not on the List)

Come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which doth easily beset you… (Alma 7:15)

I was visiting with a friend this week, stopping by her home after dropping children off at school. She designed a poster for our school’s art gala/benefit concert. We got talking about how busy life with children is, and how challenging it can be to do something besides nurturing our children. She joked how when she tries to work on graphic design projects with little children around, that they climb on top of her head or unplug the computer or touch the screen or whatever they can to get her attention. I could relate to that–how when I was a mother with young children around that it was very hard to do much else but take care of them and try to take care of our home, clothing and meals. Sometimes getting the latter done felt almost impossible. I laughed about how good it was for me to have that experience because it taught me what was most important: the children. I remember how I would get almost fixated on trying to get to Target to pick some item up that I felt we needed, and at the end of the day when I hadn’t gotten there, I recognized that we made it through the day just fine without that item, and that it wasn’t so critical after all.

It’s like a quote I saw in my daughter’s quote book that she made at her Beehive (Young Women) activity this week: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Life does go on, even if I don’t get to Target or Costco today.

Life goes on, whether or not I am doing what will matter the most to me when my life is over. So I’m grateful that Heavenly Father, through my children, has helped me see what matters most on the list. (It’s what’s not on the list.)

This quote is particularly fabulous coming from Robert Frost, because I love Frost’s poetry, and one day this week I happened to have some time on my hands (!), and I was telling my daughter, who was working on memorizing the poem “Casey at the Bat” about how I had memorized Frost’s poem “Birches” in high school. It is a beautiful 60-line poem that ended up being the reason I met my husband!

I googled “Birches” and read it aloud. The site on which I found it is inviting folks to record poetry on SoundCloud. I thought, “Ooh! I’d love to record this poem!” so I tried to do so. Nice try–my children had other activities, and even though I started and stopped a number of times, when my youngest daughter dropped some books on accident and made a loud sound, and I said something about them being quiet, she burst into tears. I realized that this was not a good time to be doing this, and that my children needed me in that moment more than I needed to record a poem. So I went to comfort my daughter, and now I’m going to record the poem! ☺

Here’s “Birches” by Robert Frost.*

Frost was right: Earth is the right place for love! Here’s how I found mine:

In the BYU library computer lab, I was printing “Birches” as a font sampler (we’re talking January 1993) for my document design class. The class had nothing to do with my major or minor; I was taking it so I could learn how to use Quark Express, with which I was creating family newsletters on the computer for my extended family. The font sampler of this poem (that I was creating for a class assignment) used too many fonts for the printer’s memory to handle. My future husband happened to be in the computer lab that day, and he saw that I was having trouble printing something. He kindly asked if I needed any help. Being a computer consultant at the time (well, he has always been a computer consultant–practically from birth!), he could help me, and he did. (He just helped me over Face Time on my phone be able to install the new toner cartridge! He is still helping me with computer issues.) So that was how we met, and fell in love, and got married just less than 8 months later!

I am guessing Frost was himself a swinger of birches as he claims in his poem. I remember reading this from a book of his poetry: “A late starter with books, he was fourteen before he began to read on his own, for his mother had always read to him” (The Road Not Taken: A Selection of Robert Frost’s Poems with an Introduction and Commentary by Louis Untermeyer, p.xv). (That “v” just reminded me of the cutest things one of my children said when she returned from a field trip to see Henry V by Shakespeare. I asked her which play she saw, and she said, “Henry Vee.”)

When I had moments of getting tired reading to my children, I sometimes remembered that. I bet Robert’s mom felt a little tired in those 13 or so years that she read aloud to him. But man, what a payback!

Reading “Birches” this week, after about 25 more years of experience than I had when I memorized it, is about giving our children the attention they require. They need our time, and they need time to just be children. They need to play, they need to climb trees and swing on them. They need this so that when they grow up and are “weary of considerations” that they can mentally journey back to those childhood moments when they were free to dream and play and simply be children. I can do better here!

Marjorie Pay Hinckley described an experience she had with her son in the book Glimpses.  But I’ll have to share that in another post, because I’m getting sidetracked.

Back to the scripture I read this morning while preparing my Primary lesson (Alma 7:15): Christ invites us to “come and fear not” and “lay aside [our] sins” that “easily beset [us].” Beset means to “attack on all sides” or “harass.” When we are nurturing our children, it is so easy to get “attacked” by thoughts that we’re not getting anything done, whereas the truth of the situation is that we are precisely doing what matters most when we nurture our children, and they teach us this when they clamor for our attention when we’re in “the thick of thin things” .

And I love the phrase “fear not,” because so many times my stress over not getting stuff on my list accomplished is because internally I fear that not getting it done is going to matter! But the great news that Christ is trying to tell us is that it doesn’t! I LOVE that! It helps me relax my tight grip on fear and trust that He will help me accomplish what I feel is also important (beside mothering) and want to do. Just like today, being able to record my poem.

I love the scriptures! I love the Book of Mormon! They teach me to focus on what matters most, and to cut through (that awesome two-edged sword) the chaff of what doesn’t.

What scripture has helped you, as a nurturer, to focus on what that really matters?

Happy Refocusing,

Liz ☺

* A friend texted me this week saying how she’s enjoying listening to Librivox recordings on the free app (and the readings are free since the books are in the public domain and were created like the Poetry Foundation’s SoundCloud project). She texted me, “I liked being read to as a child and find I still like it as an adult.” Me, too!

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