Sometimes we work so desperately hard to achieve a goal, pushing intensely, but it just won’t budge. It seems that the harder we try, the more nothing happens. And then as soon as we give up, it finally shifts.
Why does this happen?
This is a phenomena of nature that can actually be explained through an analogy. Mindset Mastery Honors GraduateStephanie Francom has a powerful explanation, which she has given me permission to share with you. She brings us back to yet another lesson we can learn through childbirth:
Letting God Finish Our Masterpieces
I could see in her eyes that it wasn’t good news. After hours and hours of hard labor with my fourth child, my midwife told me I hadn’t begun dilating. In fact, my cervix wasn’t even fully effaced. Seriously?
I was ready to cry.
With each of my other pregnancies I felt like I had some control. To get my contractions to increase in frequency and intensity, I paced. All over the house. And it worked!
I have proof.
Baby #1 – I arrived at the hospital dilated to a 7.
Baby #2 – I arrived at the hospital dilated to a 6.
Baby #3 – I arrived at the hospital dilated to a 5. And the nurses were awesome. They let me wait to be admitted while I continued pacing and progressed to a 7 or so.
So here I was broadsided with this news about Baby #4.
Death by Castor Oil
Now to be completely truthful, I may or may not have tried to tempt Fate. I was worried that my husband would miss Baby’s debut if we didn’t have her that weekend. So I took castor oil.
Let me give you a hint. DON’T. EVER. TAKE. CASTOR. OIL. No questions asked. Just don’t do it.
So after the unspeakable effects of the castor oil, it seemed to affect my labor like Pitocin. What do I mean? Well, basically my contractions were super hard without progress.
So my midwife delivered the news. I was devastated. See…in the past I simply walked off my pain. But now? Suddenly I needed major labor support. I felt so ridiculous! Like something was wrong with me. Here I hadn’t even begun dilating and we had used up just about every one of my midwife’s tricks!
Well…I gave myself a generous 30 seconds to decide my next step. I was really at a loss. But I felt that all I could really do was to surrender.
I had assumed I could control the situation…that I could hurry things along. But in reality there was nothing I could do. Except choose how I would respond.
If I was going to labor for another 5-10 hours, the only thing that made sense was to get some rest. So I chose to let go. We stuck a movie in (I have no memory whatsoever of what it was), and I laid down on the couch.
Understand – laying down was always the most painful way for me to labor. But it felt like the right thing to do.
Time to Give Up?
Let me back up for just a sec. During my pregnancy my midwife told me that when I started to feel like I was done…just ready to give up and go home…it would most likely mean that I was in transition. Interesting concept.
Okay. So hold that thought.
Back to the Story
I laid on that dang couch trying to sleep for about 45 minutes. It took a lot of self control to just stay there and breathe through those contractions. It was pretty miserable, but I already knew that pushing through and trying to make it happen wasn’t working. I didn’t believe for a second that I could progress just laying around, but what choice did I have?
I finally got up to run to the restroom, but as I stood up….OUCH!! I thought I was going to die. I had a horrible contraction, and I was DONE. I was exhausted, emotional, and I wanted to go home and forget the whole thing.
This was kind of a deja vu moment. Didn’t my midwife say something about this?….Hmmm. Ah yes. She suggested these feelings meant transition. But there was no way…I wasn’t even fully effaced.
Still, I asked her to check me. She reluctantly did so, and then I watched the panic set in. I WAS DILATED TO 9 CENTIMETERS! The baby came about 15 minutes later. Yup. It’s true.
Isn’t it fascinating? How much time do we spend trying to control things? We want things to happen on our timeline. We want answers now! We want the pain gone NOW! And yet, it wasn’t until I finally let go of my timing and left it in God’s hands that I progressed. And it was much faster than ever before. By a LOT. God did more for my progression in those 45 minutes than I could have possibly done on my own.
Painting Your Masterpiece
Ya know? We all have things we are creating. We have these beautiful dreams we are painting on the canvas of life. And I, for one, am one of those people who just can’t walk away from these masterpieces. I guess I’ve always believed that the painting will never get finished if I’m not there for every last stroke.
Apparently it was time for these beliefs of mine to be challenged.
My baby’s delivery was a defining moment for me. It inspired a lot of questions.
Is it possible that we don’t really make things happen? Could it be that we are only part of the equation? Could we possibly be fighting against a Higher Power when we try to do it all on our own? And in our own way?
Be Still and Know That I am God
Are you good for me to just share my interpretation of all this?
Here goes…We don’t have to do it all. We don’t have to make things happen. We don’t have to be everything to everyone. And we don’t have to run faster than we have strength.
When we put forth our best efforts, we can slow down a bit. Take a step back. Then we can rest assured that Life will take care of the rest. We can let go and trust God.
Consider the peace that will come when we stop and remember that sometimes, in the stillness, the finishing touches are performed by the Master Painter, Himself. And in the end, with nothing more that we can do, our Masterpiece is beautifully and perfectly complete.
You may remember my previous article about Vanessa, and Tender Mercies. Even when we don’t get exactly what we want, noticing the little blessings can help us qualify for more. As I said before, she has suffered a run of unfortunate events, but notice her attitude. She notices, documents, and calls attention to all of the things going WELL. I’m convinced that this is why she can say: “Somehow I make it through every month.” (Click here to check out her amazing photography site…)
Why does she write? In her words:
“I was challenged recently to regularly write and record the many blessings I have received, and the things I am learning from the current set of challenging circumstances I am now living through. And maybe even to write a book. Well, that was a little overwhelming, but I have had promptings to the same effect…because honestly, there have been so many tender mercies and small blessings that even now, trying to remember them all is a huge challenge. If I can write a little something every day…andlook for the things I have to be grateful for….I have a feeling miracles will take place. I feel like living in gratitude, in spite of challenges, is the key to making it through these difficult times.”
Vanessa, I agree. Thank you for sharing.
Here are some tender mercies she recognized at Christmastime:
“I still have a LOT Of work to do implementing these principles … because for every big blessing comes a pretty big (sometimes bigger) setback. In the last month I’ve had both of my cars’ transmissions die and the state board of equalization place a levy on my account for some past due taxes. My husband’s condition [Lyme disease, mycoplasma pneumonia, h. pylori, epstein-barr, multiple parasites, etc.] seems to be getting worse, but there’s a silver lining to that – his appointments with the disability appointed doctors went ‘well’ – as in they saw him at his worst and I am hopeful that he may have a chance of being approved for social security disability.
“It’s funny though… although I’m completely carless at the moment – and I have no idea how I’ll have any gifts at all for my kids this year, I am feeling the Christmas spirit stronger than ever before. I’m really loving the #lighttheworld campaign, and my kids and I have been watching the videos every night at scriptures and taking on the challenges. We have been blessed to be the recipients of so much – it feels really good to be on the other end of things for a change:
“While lately I’ve often been focused on working ’round the clock to get orders out for clients, and add more shoots to my schedule, today I dropped all of that. A friend of mine knows a single mom, a victim of domestic violence, who recently lost her home and everything in it in the recent California wildfires. My friend has been trying to help by paying for her hotel and a gift card for some clothes, but was feeling overburdened as the only supportive person her friend has. She started a GoFundMe account for this friend but had no response.
“I have another struggling friend who happens to be moving back East this weekend, and just found out 3 days ago that the person who was going to take over her apartment and all of her furnishings backed out. She needed to get rid of all of her furnishings/ kitchenware/ bedding/ etc. right away. My mom had come down to help me for a couple of days since I have no transportation right now, and between her, a friend’s truck, and our local missionaries, I was able to move all of this furniture and household supplies to storage for the single mom of 4 who lost everything in the fires, thereby helping 3 families – my friend who needed to get rid of her stuff, my friend who felt overburdened, and the woman who lost everything.
“Another tender mercy: At a recent ward activity they had a tree with ornaments for the local orphanage/foster group home for kids who don’t have any families that have a little wish list. I didn’t even really consider looking, because most the kid’s have wish lists that would take at least about $100 or so to fill and I don’t even have that much of a budget for my 4 kids put together for Christmas this year. But something told me to look anyways, and the first ornament I saw was for a child who wanted a tablet, art supplies and a gift card to Barnes and Noble. Something told me to pick it up. I just so happen to have a tablet that I’ve been trying to sell on Craigslist for the last 4 months now, and have had no takers. And my daughter had an excess of art supplies she’s been given over the last 2 years, because that’s all she asks for for her birthday and Christmas. Some were brand new, never used. And my son has been given Barnes and Noble gifts cards for every gift giving occasion for the last few years and he had 3 saved up. All the kids were able to contribute something of their own to help this girl, and I bought an art set at Michael’s for 60% off and it only cost me $12. So we will be able to do what so many have done for us and make Christmas happen for someone less fortunate, and that feels like quite a blessing.”
“…behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes . . . (Alma 37:6-7).
This has been another installment in a series of articles about Tender Mercies. Stay tuned for more coming soon…
What about you?
Maybe you’re not a millionaire. Maybe you haven’t yet realized that big vision for your life. Maybe your relationships aren’t what you want them to be. Maybe you’re still waiting for that breakthrough that never seems to come. Maybe you struggle with your health, or maybe you’re caring for someone else who is. But even so…
Have you seen God’s hand in your life today? Have you noticed Him sustaining you from day to day?
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in ALL things, and obey not his commandments,” (D&C 59:21, emphasis added).
All day yesterday, my 11 year-old son hoped I would find time to take him fishing. I had already picked up some hooks and bait the day before with the money he gave me, and he couldn’t wait to use them.
But yesterday was too hectic – my business commitment I thought I’d finish by 10:00 am took me until 5:30 pm instead. And his older brother was already in line for me to take shopping after I was done.
It was around 2 or 3 when my little fisherman asked again if we could go, and I finally had to say, “I need you to be okay if this doesn’t work out. I would much rather be fishing than doing business, believe me. But this is a promise I need to keep, and if I’m worried about how you’re feeling, I’m going to be stressed, and it will be harder for me to think. Are you going to be okay if we don’t go today?”
He said, “I’ll be okay if we don’t go today.”
I turned to his little sisters and said, “What about you girls? I need to know if you’ll be okay, too, so that I am not worried about you. If I’m not worried, I’ll be able to work faster.”
They both replied, “We’ll be okay if we don’t go today.”
Of course they were disappointed, but supportive. Talking it through with them like this was my attempt to pre-teach and help them accept a “no answer” calmly. I was proud of them for it.
I realize this sounds dangerously similar to the times when I was full-time building my business and I would say something like that to put my kids off. But the difference back then was that coming back to them was usually a token effort just so I could check it off the list and get back to work.
I always professed to want family time, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, I recognize that my actions showed otherwise. I had a really hard time breaking the pattern. It took a total emotional collapse to reboot my system and set me on a path to a more congruent existence. I’m grateful it happened, though, because now I only work my business about an hour a day, sometimes even only a couple hours a week. I’m not addicted to the work anymore, nor the charge I’d get from feeling like I was changing the world.
I truly don’t mean to diminish my work, because I know it was important and necessary for me to do at the time. But I’m just grateful that the joys I’m finding now in full-time motherhood are even deeper and longer lasting. When I receive emails from readers that describe what my books or materials have done for them, I’m super happy and I feel tremendous fulfillment and gratification that all of those hours, and the blood, sweat and tears were not for nothing. Like this one:
Hi Leslie 🙂 First of all, I can’t tell you how much your book [Portal to Genius] has changed my life. I know you hear this all the time, but I still have to say it. I have been an executive business coach for many years and … I have read every self-help, motivation, inspiration, sales book, etc…on the market and have been a reader of this type of material since I was about 25 years old. I am now almost 45. 🙂 I have even held seminars, workshops, training sessions, etc…about the power of the mind and “change.” I have trained groups as small as 3 and as large as 4,000…and NEVER have I felt the way I do right now…since I read your book just 4 weeks ago! I can’t thank you enough! In fact, my husband & I had been writing our own book for the past 2 years, never that thrilled with the content, but desiring to finish it because we know we can help people with their health. As soon as I read Portal [to Genius], I gave it to my hubby, he read it the next weekend, and we’ve have been writin’ fools ever since. The writer’s block has ended and we can’t stop…the ideas just keep comin’!!! I have referred your book to a total of eight people now and I would say half of them have reported back to me, concurring with my sentiment! Nicole K., Ph D
But as much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting emails like that, (I really do!!) the thrill and joy only lasts a short time, and life marches on.
On the other hand, when I participate in helping one of my own children have a major breakthrough (which, interestingly enough is rarely of the variety that my business is even about), my gratification is pure joy, and I literally relish in it for days. I’ll sometimes even fall asleep rehearsing the victory and how it played out for several nights in a row. Even months and years later, I know that those are the breakthroughs that I will remember the most, and in which I will take the most pride.
And it’s not because of any praise I get for helping, it just from watching the children experience a change.
Most of the time, they don’t even realize they grew.
Like when my son didn’t show up for work on time because there was a miscommunication about his schedule. When he got the text that asked, “Aren’t you coming in?” he just about had a heart attack. It was his first job, he had only been there a week, and his brain kept firing shots of terror through his body, with all the ‘what ifs’ about what the consequences might be. As we raced to get him there (7 hours late), I tried to assure him that somewhere in this awful experience there is a seed of something good.
He shot back, “How can this POSSIBLY be good??”
I had no answer. Only that it’s a true principle, and that somewhere there was a blessing in it. I didn’t know, maybe just that it was good he learned this lesson (whatever lesson it was) on a first job instead of a career job later when he’s trying to support a family.
He was convinced that everyone there was going to hate him, because he wasn’t there to do his part when they opened, and then for 7 hours, his team mates had to cover for him in a really stressful environment.
I practiced being calm for the both of us. Prayed for him that the good would be found. I knew that there was something good in it, because that’s one of the laws. I just hoped he would find it.
Then at the end of the day when I picked him up he was flying high. He told me excitedly about how everyone was really understanding, how the misunderstanding about the schedule meant that it was never posted publicly, so for those 7 hours nobody but his supervisor knew that it was him who was missing, and then because he was so late, he was there for some unexpected emergencies, and it was better for everyone that he worked the night shift instead of the early one. He came off heroic instead of delinquent.
Best of all, he got some BIG praise from his supervisor for showing up 7 hours late instead of not at all. He had faced his terror instead of just writing the day off, he overcame the fear of the unknown, grew in self-esteem, gained experience in communicating with people who he thought hated him, and saw real evidence that the law of polarity is actually true. The experience changed him. I saw him grow two years in just one day, and I felt joy.
So back to the original story…
I finished my work without guilt, because I knew that the day was wide open, and I would not even be tempted to work. I knew I’d be able to spend some real time with my kids; and besides, I was ready for some recreation myself.
So I took my 18 year-old to work at 7:30 am, and ran home again to get his name tag. (On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is totally calm, I’m happy to say that I managed to stay up around an 8, even though returning for his forgotten name tag was not exactly what I wanted to be doing.)
Before I reached home the second time, I called the fishing preserve to ask about their hours. Since they had been open since dawn already, I was excited to surprise my youngest three with the news that we should go ASAP.
My 11 year-old son was super excited. We have a lake in our backyard, and he’s already caught countless fish there, but mostly only catfish, and only for catch and release. The lake we were going to is behind the library where you can catch about 5 different kinds of fish (including trout, which is what he really wanted), and, you can take them home to eat them.
So off we went.
While I was following them through the brush to find the best spot, I thought about how hot and uncomfortable I was (weather report says it was effectively 97 degrees), but how much in a rush I wasn’t. This is where they wanted to be, and I was mentally prepared to go along with it for a couple hours. I didn’t have something else on my mind that I “needed to get back to”, and I marveled that I had come so far. Two years ago I couldn’t get work off of my mind.
One of my previous parenting mentors (Matt Reichmann), always taught that if you want to have more power as a parent, you’ve got to play with your kids. When I was so caught up in work, I always had trouble making time for play. It’s getting easier, though, and I’ve noticed that the more I play with them, the less I have to correct them. Bottom line, they simply behave better when their emotional buckets are full, and their buckets stay full the more often I play with them.
I was also reminded of a video clip that put a smile on my face. It is simple but profound:
I love when the blogger said that “children aren’t something you collect because they’re cuter than stamps, [mothering is] not something you do if you can squeeze the time in, it’s what God gave you time… for.”
I know you may be thinking, “Yeah, that would be nice, if I didn’t have so many stresses that keep me from living that way…” because that’s what I thought for twenty years.
Well, I finally figured something out. When I was really ready to make that shift, when I was finally committed to living it no matter what, I had to let go. I had to let go of what people might think of me. I had to let go of the need for my lifestyle to look a certain way. I had to be ready to make the necessary sacrifices to claim it. I had to check my own priorities.
We downsized our home. We sold some extra cars. We rearranged a lot of things to make this work. I don’t get my nails done any more. I make my kids work for things. If we have to choose between getting a new coat of paint on the car or investing in our children’s education, we choose their education.
Through my work I learned with absolute certainty that we really can have anything we want. We could have a new car if we wanted one badly enough. We could replace some old furniture if we were passionate enough about doing that. I understand the principles of success and the law of vibration, and how our results are a reflection of our application of those principles. But I also recognize that for every desire, there is some effort that is required. So I had to ask myself, what am I working toward? For what purpose do I invest my best time, money, and attention?
What I really wanted more than anything was a peaceful home and rich relationships with my husband and children. And now I’m finally directing my best efforts to my own family. It takes a LOT of time, and it takes effort. Sometimes I still say “no” to a profitable opportunity here and there because it is a distraction at the time from my primary focus. But so far, nothing else has been this rewarding.
So you can imagine my surprise when, after ‘letting go’ for about a year and a half, that the business began to grow on its own. Other resources also began finding their way to us more freely. I began to recognize a real correlation between the calmness I felt, and the increase in the flow of money and opportunities into our lives.
There were still stressful situations, but choosing calmness and trusting God always seemed to cause the problem to melt away entirely, or turn it into something unexpectedly good. In either case, we were okay.
Stay calm, be still (in your heart), and think of God as a loving Father who will take care of you. Trust Him with your life.
No, it’s not easy to raise a family, and it’s not easy keeping Mom home from work if that’s what the goal is. But it’s possible if you want it. Opportunities will come to those who work tenaciously toward their worthy ideal, whatever it is. I promise you that. The answers may not come when you want them to, but God is never late.
(If you’re struggling with money issues, then you can get some new hope by reading The Jackrabbit Factor, and then coming back to browse some of the favorite posts on the right side of this page – they’re mostly about dealing with financial stress.)
So anyway, there’s my thought for the day: Raising a family is not something you do if you have time for it, it’s what God gave us time for.