A while back,
I visited a friend of mine.
She looks like a movie star.
She and her husband have well-established careers,
and one infant son.
Her house is stunning--it looks like it stepped out of Better Homes & Gardens.
She is well-educated and articulate.
And everything she does seems to be laced with glamour and beauty.
Unfortunately, I found myself falling prey to the tendency to compare.
As we visited, I was keenly aware of my scuffed flats
and wind-blown hair from a morning at the park with my little ones
and an afternoon spent laying on my toddler's bedroom floor while he refused to nap.
I came home feeling like a failure,
and deeply dissatisfied with so much that surrounded me.
Prayers filled my heart that I could appreciate all that she is
without feeling like less of a person because of the priorities in my life.
I prayed that I would stay grounded
and remember the testimony I have in the decisions we have made.
And I was reminded of some of my heroes.
I thought of Marjorie Pay Hinckley, and her oft-quoted lines:
"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
And I remembered how much I want to be like her.
I thought of my dear friend from Texas.
Each time I visited her home, the walls were adorned with her children's drawings, taped up as a result of their latest game, directing the way to the circus with handmade paper tickets strewn about or self-portraits making their home next to their framed, photographic counterparts.
I thought of the way her children were given the freedom to explore,
although such exploration didn't result in perfect grooming or complete cleanliness of home.
And I remembered how much I admired those traits.
I thought of another beloved friend and example.
Although her husband had a prestigious career as a specialized doctor and scientist,
they lived in a very modest home with their seven children.
I once heard her lament that she wished she could afford to fly to a different state to visit her family members while her husband and older children were away for the week,
while I knew the reason they "couldn't afford it" was because they gave whatever they could spare to others.
I thought of their yearly medical mission trip to a third-world country with their children.
Their children were raised in a comfortable setting without needless rigid boundaries,
and they were taught to devote their lives to service.
And I remembered how I want my children to learn the same thing.
And I thought of the home I was raised in.
I thought about luxuries my mother did without
because she cared more about giving her seven children opportunities for growth.
I thought about her willingness to "make do" with next-to-nothing,
the endless hours selflessly spent in the kitchen and laundry room
while we constantly un-did her work.
I thought about our home which, while always tidy,
bore the evidence of many children coming and going.
And I remembered how ideal I consider that environment to be.
And then I remembered how precious each one of my children is,
And I knew that our children are the crowning achievement of our lives,
worth every single sacrifice we have made to bring them here
and that I have made conscious decisions to be like my heroes--
to let go of the image the world views as ideal,
to give them freedom to grow,
to try to teach them to serve others freely,
to create an ideal setting in which they can learn.