I remember years ago when my girls were younger… Whether she has two or ten children, a mother’s life is full.
I recall a particular day where, when evening came, I was pretty exhausted. I began to write a quick synopsis of the day in my journal, and as I did, I seemed to reduce my activities to a list: early morning study, caring for my girls, about 21 phone calls, six loads of wash, several meals prepared, grocery shopping with Talia, service, reading scriptures, and retiring. While I loved being a mother and inherently knew the value of motherhood (particularly being with and directing my children), I didn’t have a way to measure the increase, the effect of the day and see its impact in the grand ledger of life. Having love in my heart didn’t seem to make its way onto the list.
As the girls and I cuddled in the bed for scripture time together, I opened the Book of Mormon to Alma 26 and began to read to them. Kira and Talia each repeated the lines of the text, or their favorite words, as they typically did then. As always with repetition, I had extra time to consider the meaning of the verses we read aloud:
1 And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?
2 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?
3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God. And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
4 Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.
5 Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle and did reap with your might, yea, all they day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted.
6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea; neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them, yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them;
7 But behold they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest and they are his and he will raise them up at the last day.
8 Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever. (Alma 26:1-8)
As I listened to Ammon, I noticed that he suggested what I already knew to be true: that the greatest blessing we can receive lies in being “made instruments in the hands of God” to bring others to Christ (vs 3). In reading those words, I felt the Lord trying to tell me something. He seemed to be saying that what I was attempting to do that very day in purifying my heart so that my children would be able to see the Savior more clearly through me was part and parcel of “this great work” of bringing others to Christ (vs 3). Not only did He let me know He was aware of my efforts, He indicated that through them I was involved (though in a different arena and with fewer numbers) in the same great work as Ammon. The Lord felt a need to remind me of what I already knew: that the work and efforts of all mothers are noticed and that they never could really be reduced to a list.
And then, as I read on, I was struck again by the Lord’s words in verse 5: “Behold, the field was ripe, and ye did thrust in the sickle and reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor.” It was as if this were His rendition of my day (in contrast with my own). It felt as though He had watched me all day in my own invisible realm and stood before me now to give His account of it. His loving words pierced the unspoken feelings tugging at my heart. The field was ripe, I acknowledged silently as my thoughts turned immediately to my children’s tender, prepared hearts—ripe for learning as I was ripe that day in wanting to teach them. And I didn’t need a particular parenting skill or blanket formula for interacting with them, nor did I mistake their behavioral slips for mine.
I read on: “[Y]e did thrust in the sickle and did reap with your might” (vs 5). It seemed that I had underestimated the offering of serving with a heart desiring to do right. The Lord saw my efforts as “thrusting” and “reaping” with my might. I was amazed as I read the next phrase in that verse, particularly by Ammon’s exclamation: “[A]nd behold the number of your sheaves!” This was a clear indication to me that God’s accounting is different than mine and that there were quantity and quality fruits born in a simple way that day. And again, what He said to me, He seems to be saying to all mothers who serve in love within the walls of their own homes.
I continued to ponder these verses, and I began to see my day differently. As I discovered that a sheaf is a bundle of grain wrapped together and that each stalk contains about forty grains each, I knew there was no small sum gathered. Where was it tucked away? Suddenly, the experiences with my daughters seemed to divide themselves up into little packages or bundles, as if they themselves were the wrapped sheaves of grain: Talia’s cutting short her early-morning tantrum and hugging me, her tender expressions throughout the day, her change in demeanor in the middle of a demanding moment while brushing her teeth, the profound feelings of warmth in our home…. Then I unwrapped another fruit-bearing sheaf marked by discovering Kira’s real need for help in knowing what to do when provoked by her sister. Perhaps that sheaf alone, if “garnered” by the Lord, would accelerate her progress in learning to love like the Savior and forbear under injury (vs 5).
I imagined, then, the bundles of sheaves. As I envisioned the gathered sheaves, the words in Alma 26:3 came back to me in slightly different form: “Know, Karen, that ‘[thy time] was not wasted.’” In one way, it seemed that this little change of heart had occurred overnight, and in yet another way, that it had occurred slowly, without my even noticing it, over time. The Lord had seen the harvest; I had seen only the shells of the seeds I was sowing.
I thought more about the fruits of the harvest—they are also born into the seeds that develop within the growing grain. In that sense, the sheaves also represented the girls. As I pondered the Lord’s special promises in this same passage of scripture, to protect the sheaves from physical storm, it seemed that He was likewise promising to protect Kira and Talia against spiritual storms; from being “driven by fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth.”
I counted His promise as part of this bounteous reaping. The Lord, it seemed, was assuring me—and, likewise, all mothers—that as long as I would continue to wholly yield my heart to Him and to Kira and Talia, though imperfectly, my children would “not be beaten down by the storm at the last day nor be harrowed up by the whirlwinds” (vs 6). What greater promise can we reap from the Lord? I felt to rejoice as did Alma: “Blessed be the name of our God;…for he doth work righteousness forever” (vs 8).
The girls were hugging and squirming in their beds as I finished our reading and marked the corner of the page. I kissed them goodnight, turned out the lights and slowly began to close the Book of Mormon, but I couldn’t. Instead, I carried it gently downstairs, laid it on the kitchen table, still open to those savored passages in Alma.
This article was originally published in October 2008. Minor changes have been made.
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.