Monday, October 08, 2007

Being the BEST

About 15 years ago I got married at the ripe old age of 18. Having been raised in a family of 11, I thought I knew how to cook and clean and take care of a home and a husband. My husband was raised by a single mom who worked three jobs and kept a good supply of frozen burritos, hence he thought Hamburger Helper was the bomb. I couldn't make much else. I also didn't know how to match my clothes or mop a floor. Cleaning my house was a weekly thing I should probably do if I didn't have anything better going on. I'd been taught how do do all these things that went into a home, but they got lost somewhere between learning to drive a car and trying to figure out what CD's were and if I really should give up on cassettes all togther. I was raising my nine year old niece within a few months. When school started she got herself up, ready, fed and to school cause there was no way I was getting out of bed before 9:00. None of this seemed like a problem to me. When confronted with moments of knowing I needed to do better, I took offense at the implication that I wasn't good enough and justified that I was being the BEST I could be. However, I continued to make small improvements that at the time didn't seem to make much of a difference.

About 10 years ago I was a mother of two. The niece was no longer with us, and we were buying our first home. I had learned how to cook--especially desserts--and I actually washed dishes every day. I woke up at 8:00 and did laundry once a week, content with dirty clothes if we ran out come Saturday. I didn't always open all my mail, putting it in piles for a few weeks and then throwing it all away when it got overwhelming. I frequently bounced checks and bought milk too close to the expiration date. When I spilled on the carpet, I chose the path of least effort and just left it there. My kids ate hot dogs at least once a day and I didn't know what a baseboard was let alone how to clean one. I'd grown a lot in those five years, but I was still overwhelmed. Now and then I'd come up against something that would challenge me to do better, and I'd justify that I was being the BEST I could be. But I continued to make small changes, small goals meant to do just a little bit better.

Five years ago I had just had my fourth child and our niece was living with us again. I cleaned baseboards once a year whether I needed to or not. I'd finally accepted that one day for laundry was not enough in a household of seven. I had learned to cook even more foods and no longer served hot dogs on a daily basis (I now traded off with mac and cheese) I sometimes cleaned up spills immediately and I had learned how to match not only my own clothes but those of my children. I had learned to do a French braid that would make it through church. I read my scriptures now and then, and opened all my mail even when I knew it was a stupid ad just in case it was important. I washed windows and moped floors on a semi-regular basis. I wore shoes when I went outside and read to my kids now and then. I was on the PTA and running a girl scout troop. I was writing on a regular basis, which meant my kids watched ten hours of TV a day, and I was finally beginning to feel as if I were really coming to know myself. I left yard tools in the yard for months on end and overcharged my credit cards because "I deserved it". I frequently forgot to brush my children's teeth and my flower beds were overrun with weeds. I'd improved, but now and then would come upon yet more moments than ever that would question if I was good enough. I would look at myself, see how far I had come and take pride in that, but wish I were doing a little bit better.

Two weeks ago I was challenged directly--to be the best mother, the best wife, and the best homemaker I could be. I came home and vented at my husband. He wisely said nothing and told me I'm doing a great job.

And you know what? He's absolutely right. I am doing a great job and my family and myself are very blessed by that. I had a week to ponder this, and then the challenge was reissued when I was in a better place to accept it.

What if I'd accepted that my BEST was the Josi of fifteen years ago, or even ten? What if I'd never accepted the challenges that came my way? Would I feel the satisfaction I feel now? And if I ignore a challenge I'm given now, am I missing out on even more satisfaction later on?

I'm not going to be a better cook than my sister-in-law, and I'm not going to be a better scrapbooker than my friend Marci. I'm not going to be a better gardener than Roxie, or a better home canner than Joan. But can I find MORE joy in being the best Josi I can be? Can I find greater satisfaction in rising to a challenge given? All in the name of blessing my family?

It is said in the scriptures that the Lord chastens those whom he loves. I have been chastened. It also says in the scriptures not to run faster than you have strength, but it does tell us to run. And, in the scriptures we are told that nothing is impossible in the Lord. Do I want to question that? Admitting we can do better doesn't negate what we have done, it simply reminds us that this life is given to us as a time to grow and improve and bless the lives of those entrusted to us. Sometimes we get mixed up and think "Do Better" really means "Not Good Enough" but I think that's the other guys way of trying to make it harder for us.

I won't be at my best tomorrow, it will be a very slow process as all other processes in my life have been, but if we have faith in ourselves the size of a mustard seed, we can become a tree in which our families will find refuge from a heavy world. And wouldn't it feel good? To be a force such as that in not only our own life, but those of our husband and children?

What say ye, shall we rise?


Kate said...

I know I'm gonna rise to the challenges that were issued! :)
However, a wise friend once reminded me that on certain days our best will not be as good as our best on other days (read PMS days versus NON-PMS days! LOL)
Here's to being the best Josi you can be! I'm pullin' for you! :)
~Kate (from cre8Buzz)~

Luisa Perkins said...

Well said, Josi. Rising to a challenge does not have to mean putting extra pressure on ourselves.

Jeff Savage said...

I'm right there with you, Josi. I don't even want to talk about how unbalanced our checkbook was for most of our early married life, but let's just say we avoided nearby grocery stores for quite a while.

And my flower gardens are still mostly fileld with weeds, although I did actually manage to tackle one this year (of the like thirty the previous owner had.)

I figure, my neighbor with the perfect yard hasn't written any books this year, so we're even. And besides weeds are more drought tolerant? Right? Right?

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Thanks for the great thoughts. It is great to look back and see so much improvement. And to look forward and see so much improvement still to be made.

DarkWing said...

nice thoughts. I should probaly try to be a little better :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Exactly! It's not about being perfect -- it's about doing better. And then, after that, we'll do a little better. Hurting ourselves and feeling guilty that we aren't perfect isn't in God's plan, but constantly striving is.

Anonymous said...

The question I always ask what is better? My kids are happy. I am just starting to discover happiness.

Momo Fali said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I needed it. I'm getting ready to start working after almost a decade at home with the kids and am so worried about not being able to do my best. But, I WILL do my best...because that's all I can do! (My husband comes from 11 kids! Lucky number!)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Yes, we shall rise! The key to life is learning to better yourself by not comparing yourself to everyone else. Making sure your relationship with the Lord is where it should be is what it is all about.

Excellent thoughts!

Now if only I could express myself as well as all my writer friends :) !! I have been feeling rather shabby about my skills lately.

Kasie @ ~The Art of Life~ said...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I really like what you said about "Admitting we can do better doesn't negate what we have done." That's something that I needed to be reminded.

Danyelle Ferguson said...


Like you, I also came home and vented to my hubby after the RS broadcast. After years of talking about developing our talents and becoming closer to our Heavenly Father, developing that personal relationship with him - I was blindsided by the strong emphasis about what a wife and mother should be like and their ideas of how we should be going about it. Let's just say that I didn't quite agree (not completely, anyway).

And of course, it came up again after the RS president's address in General Conference. So John and I talked about it a lot. And like you, we came to the conclusion that there are great things to learn in those talks, but that they need to be individualized to me, our marriage, and our family.

Thanks for your comments. I was beginning to feel like I was the only one out there who had a hard time relating those addresses to my life. You're awesome!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Thank you for such a great post. It's important to always try and do a little better, but our best is good enough. I like Kate's comment that on certain days our best is different than on other days. That is so true!

Jenna said...

Josi, This is a GEM of a post. You and I are so much alike. I got married (the first time) at 18 also, busting through the gates of matrimony to do it all and do it well. I was the oldest of 9 and knew I was ready. Yeah, right. It's a shocker, huh? I agree with you. Keep moving forward. I thought I was doing pretty good way back then, throwing some tuna into the mac and cheese to 'dress it up for company', but thank goodness I didn't stop growing! Life would be awful if we had to be who we were back then and nothing better!

C.J. said...

Josi, I didn't really like either of the talks you were non-directly referring to, but I did like your comments. At eighteen there's no way I could've taken care of anyone other than myself. You probably were doing the best you could at the time.
My frustration with the talks is that it made it sound as if we are in a competition and not just in competition with ourselves, but with other women in the world. I thought the talks sounded a bit arrogant as if we know how to be better mothers than anyone else. The gospel does teach us how to treat people and yet we certainly don't have a corner on the market in parenting, or in love, or in kindness to others. I see a whole lot of women with insurmountable challenges in this modern day who struggle to hang on and who really are doing the best that they can, even if that means sending their kids to church without ironed shirts, or with less than "hair brushed to perfection." We as women should rally each other, be more inclusive with those outside the faith and culture, and just be the best we can at the time. One of my all time favorite books is Lighten Up by Cheiko Okasaki--she reminds women to pat themselves on the back every now and again. I don't mean to be overly critical of the talks. I'm sure I've overreacted to them. She may only mean to do a little better, but it didn't sound that way to me.

Anonymous said...

hi josi:
great post. we are all "a work in progress." we keep growing and we don't give up. i like the me who i am now at age 39 way better than the me who i was many years ago. grateful that we keep growing and thriving and learning and more.

thanks for the perspective today, friend, kathleen :)

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Bill C said...

Trees are a nice fit for the image of a family. Roots for stability, refuge for growth, and steady branches when the time comes to learn how to fly.

And I know it sounds cheesy and like, "we're all winners" but really, we *are* at our very best when we're simply being ourselves. Any and all achievements that truly matter - we'll meet them along the way as our moments unfold.

Luisa Perkins said...

Josi, this is totally off-topic, and I don't want to distract everyone from this wonderful post. But I tagged you today for a really fun meme. I hope you'll play!

Anna Maria Junus said...

Very nice post.

I missed the women's broadcast, but I did catch the talk in General Conference.

I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand I felt "someone else telling me that I'm just not good enough," and on the other I thought "I really should take this opportunity to learn."

I'm not doing my best, but then I have no idea what my best is. I just know that I'm tired and feel defeated, so the idea of doing better seems out of reach right now.

I'm trying to put the whole thing in perspective. I'm lucky that my son finds a clean shirt, never mind a clean freshly pressed white shirt.