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Author: Kathrine Harlan

The Battle of Monday Night – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

The Battle of Monday Night – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

Chalk it up as a successful Family Home Evening. That’s what I’ve decided to do. It’s after midnight, post-Monday-FHE chaos, and I can’t sleep because of what an amazing FHE we had. Oh yeah. What was so great about it, you ask? Let’s see… Was […]

Praying for…Trouble? – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

Praying for…Trouble? – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

When you pray, you don’t normally expect to get a bad head cold. It’s not usually the way to detect answers from our Heavenly Father. But maybe sometimes it is? I’ve been thinking a lot about the new Disney movie, “Moana,” especially since we’ve watched […]

What I Do – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

What I Do – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

“So what do you do all day?” An innocent, conversational question. But this time, I was speechless.


We had invited some friends for dinner, a cute newlywed couple. The husband we’d known for some time, and we enjoyed a great evening catching up together. We got to know the wife and learned all about their plans for the future. After discussing education, children, and careers, there was a pause in the dialogue. Then our friend proffered that zinger of a query.


“What? What do I do all day?” I spluttered on my words. “I…I…I do this!” I gestured to my four children. Didn’t he understand? I quipped that I just sat on the couch and ate ice cream all day. He didn’t get the joke.


How does one explain what a stay-at-home mom does all day?


How could I articulate the time it takes to receive sleepyhead children each morning, to snuggle them, to move past the pull of the bed and onto endless needs of the day? The call of laundry, baths, hair brushing, diapers, playdates, sibling fights, bonked heads, chores, everything?


How could I explain how long it takes to prepare and clean up meals and snacks? I live in an area of the world where access to prepared foods is very limited, so most everything is made from scratch, down to boiling a pumpkin, making our own molasses, or just chopping fresh vegetables every. single. day. But no matter the place or situation, the call of hunger is unceasing. And the vital task of teaching children how to help often only hinders the process, with eggs splattered on the rug or sugar glittering over every kitchen surface.


How could I specify how grueling yet gratifying homeschooling is? How to convey the sometimes-vain attempts to laugh through the pre-algebra lessons that my son knows but despises (and rants loudly about) anyway? Or the messes made when we all explore paint colors or extremely scientific experiments on non-Newtonian substances…like slime?


How could I tell about the bombshell of a moment when my husband texted me that our daughter had a serious skin infection and “the doctor says we’ll have to shave her head”? Luckily, we averted that and instead I spent hours of time weekly to administer treatments every morning and night.


How could I verbalize the sense of shocked amusement when my 2-year-old came to me, shamefaced, and said, “Momma, I sowwy, I peed on the dog.” (I’m still laughing–a small stuffed dog had the misfortune of being shoved down the diaper of this small boy.)


The little things add up to become the day.


And we don’t even need to get into the ways the job extends beyond “mom” into helping with our family business, church service, feeding stray young single adults, connections with friends and family, etc. Every mom is different, and not all are the stay-at-home kind, but every mom’s life deserves someone who supports her like my husband did today: after a potentially disastrous math lesson in which crisis was truly avoided only because I intentionally breathed and laughed a lot, he came out, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Moms should have a VIP ticket to heaven.”


I certainly didn’t want to complain to our friend or sound harassed or overworked. I also didn’t want to detail the mundane or make it seem like I was trying to sound busy, or worse, make his new wife feel bad for working outside the home. I totally respect her and any woman’s decision that’s best for their family, just like mine is for ours. So I just didn’t know WHAT to say!


This would be the point in the post where I say that despite all the struggles and tears and trials of mothering, it’s all worth it, and I sleep easy at night knowing I’m doing the Lord’s work. Sometimes that feels true. Other times–even though it’s still true–it doesn’t feel true; it just feels hard. I don’t sleep easy, whether it’s because of wakeful children, worry about the future, or just something I saw on the news. And someday I’ll be worrying about issues different from diapers and literally saving my babies’ physical lives every other minute. There will be dating and driving and heartache and doubt and other turmoil I don’t want to think about.


So why in the world do we do it?!


I believe for me it’s summed up in this one line from our leaders: “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 1995). Our work as mothers has eternal consequences. And God has made promises that if I truly seek to nurture my children, He will send innumerable and specific blessings in both their lives and mine. And I trust God.


I would never judge another woman on her choices to work or stay home, nor would I endeavor to say that my choice is the only or best choice for everyone. But I’m ever so grateful that I have the blessing of mothering my crazy little family. I’m so glad I didn’t miss the stuffed dog episode. I feel truly satisfied that my son can trust me to work through hard things with him. I’m thankful for the hours I “had” to spend with my daughter, talking, brushing her hair, laughing, practicing our Swedish. Those little things with which I fill my minutes and hours and days add up to so much more than I ever thought possible. My day–my life–is filled up. Filled up with love and learning. Filled up with the work of eternity. Filled up with life.


The Manger Moments – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

The Manger Moments – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

The Christmas season is always inspiring and motivating for me. This year as I’ve studied parts of the New Testament regarding the Savior’s entry into mortality, the story of humble and faithful Mary, the sacred mother of Jesus Christ, has spoken to my heart. Her […]

Family – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

Family – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

We live in a city in China where there are very few foreigners. With our four blondie children, we get a lot of attention, which some of us appreciate more than others. Yesterday we went to play as a family at a nearby plaza in […]

The Ups and the Downs – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

The Ups and the Downs – By Contributor Mama Kathrine


Nephi was a real guy. He was a prophet, yes, but he was also a mortal, with weaknesses, strengths, challenges, the ups and downs of life, and purpose. Just like us.


Remember this situation? Nephi and his family have been through a lot already in the wilderness, having left their home, friends, and belongings. But Nephi has been faithful and has received the glorious vision of the Tree of Life, just like his father Lehi. Not only that, but since he asked, the Lord has shown him innumerable other things, including a vision of Christ’s life and death, the land of promise, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the end of the world. He has even engaged in real-life conversations with angels and the Spirit of the Lord. That sounds like a pretty amazing temple experience!


Imagine how he must have felt after all this overflowing revelation! I aspire to just having a “yes or no” question answered at the temple; he essentially saw the entire history of the world: past, present and future. Even so, we can liken the scriptures unto us by seeking for greater faith like Nephi and in finding comfort in the experiences that come next.


Nephi has had an outpouring of the Spirit and gained insights he never knew he needed. Then in 1 Nephi 15:1, he comes home. He “had been carried away in the spirit, and seen all these things, [and he] returned to the tent of [his] father.” In the very next verse, the trouble begins. Those brothers of his! They were “disputing one with another,” arguing about the vision their father had and basically just whining about how hard their lives are. Nephi returns to a tentful of chaos and contention.


Does his experience sound like yours sometimes? Too often, I come home from attending the temple or from an uplifting meeting (or even during a hopeful personal study session or family home evening lesson) and find that my family is in chaos and contention. I guess I expect that having been edified by the Spirit, my life should be easier, my relationships absolutely peaceful, and everything perfectly blessed and calm. No. No, it’s not. In fact, God promises that it won’t be: Ether 12:27 states, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.” So when we turn to the Lord, one of the great challenges/blessings is we discover all the things we need to work on to become more like our Savior! I repent and am enlightened…and then life sets in: the children argue or disobey, or I get stuck in traffic, or the sink overflows, or whatever–and my faith is immediately tried. Those very commandments I just resolved to follow are tested to the limits. Sometimes I lose my temper; other times I am able to restore order with peace and calm; occasionally I can laugh through it.


When I follow Nephi’s example, I’m most successful. He recognized his brothers’ hard and unfaithful hearts and was grieved. He even “was overcome because of [his] afflictions.” (See, it’s not just you and me! He was overwhelmed, too!) But then the scriptures teach that he “received strength.” (Sounds to me like he prayed and received the Holy Ghost.) He then asked to know what specific things the brothers were arguing about. He let them talk and he listened. Finally, he asked questions that led to discussion about gospel principles. Through this discussion, he was able to help them recognize their own spiritual deficiencies and teach them about numerous doctrines: faith, prayer, revelation, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, covenants, and was even able to share his own heavenly visions and interpretations with them. After a long dialogue (which may not have come at a super convenient time for Nephi), the brothers “did humble themselves before the Lord” (1 Nephi 16:5). It took a while, but at last—and at least for a while—they had returned to the iron rod and the path of righteousness.


This experience in the scriptures has motivated me to be more patient, but has also given me enormous relief: even great prophets have struggles with normal, everyday sort of conflict.  God continually encourages each of us to grow and progress by giving us opportunities to learn. And Nephi’s life is a lot like mine. Not the specific details, of course, but so many of the ups and downs, the happy and sad, the good and bad, the dull and interesting, the easy and hard. It’s often the cycle of humility and pride, but also just normal life; C.S. Lewis calls it the “troughs and peaks” (The Screwtape Letters, ch.8). It’s the journey of experiencing mortal life, of learning to know the good from the evil. Life isn’t meant to be one smooth, unbroken elevator to heaven. It’s a wild ride, full of mountaintops as well as valleys. And both the ups and the downs provide opportunities for growth, joy, love, faith, charity, and compassion.


So strap on the “whole armour of God” (see Ephesians 6): hold tight to the shield of faith, gird yourself with truth and righteousness, grab that sword of the Spirit and word of God….and maybe the buckle of humor. Be prepared through prayer. These things make it possible to enjoy the ride, glory in the view, laugh through the upside-down loops, and be able to hold on through those uphill climbs. If we endure to the end, the entire ride will be worth it.

The Reasons – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

The Reasons – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

It wasn’t so much a lot of tears and sobbing. It was more a general sense of dread, like nothing could ever be good or worthwhile. Maybe it was a little like how Ron Weasley describes the all-encompassing chill of dementors in the Harry Potter […]

We Can Do Hard Things – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

We Can Do Hard Things – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

“…With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) His hands trembled and his shoulders hunched as he stepped forward to take the tray of bread. As he walked up to the stand at the front of the chapel, he glanced from side to side, making […]

Revelation to Run – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

Revelation to Run – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

It amazes me to be able to experience revelation in very practical and unexpected ways. But really, do I have to run a marathon?

I’m sort of a runner. At least I still say I am. I ran in high school and was able to attend on scholarship to run long distance in college for two years. But I never wanted to run a marathon. Never.

Oh, I enjoyed running in general, and I liked racing and even pushing past that threshold of pain toward the finish. But this race??

I saw what it did to people. I saw the pain, the sickness, the injury, the overall agony. It didn’t look fun OR worth it. Then a few years after college, my husband ran a marathon. And…I still subscribed to my view of it: pure torture.

Fast forward about ten years. We’re living overseas, homeschooling for the first time, still trying to get the hang of doing the China thing. And my husband brings up the idea of the Great Wall Marathon in Beijing. Yeah…sounds fun, in theory. As in, that would be cool to have done that marathon. I briefly entertained the idea, thought better of it with regard to our children and the time away it would take, told my husband I would support him, but it wasn’t the right time for me. Whew!

Suddenly, he was signing up. It was a Sunday, pretty much the last day to register, and he asked me one more time. AGH! I didn’t want to think about it again. So much preparation and training and time away, plus the cost, the travel (who would watch our kids?!), and, oh yeah, the agony of actually running the marathon in the mountains! But it weighed on me. I kept thinking about it. The night prior I’d discussed with our mentoring group about revelation, so I resolved to ask God, even in what I considered this very secular thing. Armed with the thought that all things are both temporal and spiritual, combined with advice to pray especially for confirmation on things that might have a detrimental impact on family, I knew I had to ask. And I needed an answer ASAP.

We had many people at the apartment that day, but I snuck away to my bedroom and knelt. I prayed a “no,” telling God all those reasons why I felt I shouldn’t do the marathon, especially that I felt it would take away from homeschooling time and mothering time and keeping-my-home-from-becoming-chaotic time! I laid it all out, and then I waited. I had snatched my scriptures on my way in, and I opened them randomly, thinking,

This is so cliché to expect them to drop open to my answer; no way it’s going to work.

Oh, me of little faith!

I glanced at Micah. Who reads Micah? I skimmed a few verses and then stopped on the last verse in chapter 4: “Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion.”

Ok, yeah, but what does that really mean? Just the fact that it says “daughter?” And for me to get up and thresh? Maybe. I don’t know.

 A little more skimming until the beginning of chapter 6: “Hear ye now what the Lord saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice.”

I was overcome with a rising force of the Spirit within me. If I couldn’t get the message on that first command, He made it undeniably clear on the second. Run that marathon. You don’t have to know why yet. Just do it.

So I did. I ran. I trained with my sister. We ran for hours. And hours. And hours. Then race day came and I “contended before the mountains.” And boy, did the “hills hear my voice” as my sister and I sang our way along the marathon route! We had several people run with us for sections of the race, letting us know how they appreciated running with the “music girls.” We did it, we survived, we completed the race, we did what we set out to do and enjoyed [most of] the journey.

And the why?? Partway through training, I asked God the why: what was my purpose in this great effort? He simply responded “for joy.” So we tried to bring joy to others as we trained and raced, and we tried to feel joy in the process ourselves. Smiling, laughing, waving to strangers, having dance parties on stair landings, listening to Conference talks and joyful music, posing for pictures, and talking for hours. And aside from that, so many blessings have come: a deeper relationship with my youngest sister, a more disciplined schedule, reduced leisure media and more meaningful use of time with my children and husband, not to mention the energy and enthusiasm that comes from being fit and having done something mega hard!

A marathon is not for everyone. But heeding the will of the Lord, individualized for your life, is. He knows you and me personally and can guide us to the things we should do to bring us the greatest blessings. It will be personal. It will be difficult. And you may not know why. But He does, and faith in His love can be enough to keep us on that path toward heavenly peace and joy.

The Specialist – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

The Specialist – By Contributor Mama Kathrine

My grandfather was a contractor, and a major lesson I learned from him is that you always, ALWAYS leave a few minutes at the end of a project to tidy up and put away. So yesterday, when two workers came to our home to install […]

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