Part 2: Called to Serve – Challenges in Parenting

by Emily Hartford, Thompsonville, Illinois
Photos from: Joyous Photography

Note:  I originally shared this with my home congregation in Thompsonville, IL, USA.  My hope is that it may serve as a thinking point for other young parents and young adults.
May you be blessed as you look to the simplicity of your own life and find the beauty.

Read Part 1 of Emily’s story in “Called to Serve – The Divine in the Everyday“!

Photo by: Adam Wade

“Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” 5And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
7Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
– – Isaiah 49:1-7

The chapter before this one, is all about God’s role in Israel’s history.  God’s hand in their story.  This chapter, in contrast, is calling the servant to be the agent of action.  To call Israel to pay attention to God’s direction.  This servant expresses his frustration at failure, and cries out to God.  Does God release him of his task?  No.  Instead, the servant is called forward, beyond his familiar, into the nations to proclaim God’s salvation.  As the excerpt closes, God assures the servant that the Kings and Princes will indeed serve the Lord, because the servant was willing to go beyond what, and where, he knew.

I often feel like being a parent is a journey into the unknown wilderness.  Everyday I am confronted with at least one unfamiliar challenge.  This past week I met with a new challenge…both boys being sick at the same time.  Flu season was particularly hard on lots of folks this year, and it hit my boys simultaneously.  My mother came home from the doctor and sent us straight back to get a flu test and medicine for the little ones.  They did very well at the doctor, charming everyone we met.  We picked up the medicine, and home we came for 5-7 days of quarantine, rest, and cabin fever.  With a 3 ½ year old and an 18 month old to amuse, we tried to meet the challenge with a positive attitude, ideas for entertainment, and lots of movies and such.

Truly, keeping them entertained was not the most challenging part of Joseph and Ollie being sick.  The worst part?  Administering medicine.  Since they aren’t sick very often, they aren’t used to taking meds, and do not enjoy the process.  It only took a day or so before I could get Oliver to swallow most of his medication.  Joseph, however, took to spitting it out, sometimes in my face.

By the third day of getting spit at, I had had it.  I was mad, frustrated, and worried that if I didn’t get the meds into Joseph, he would take much longer to get well.  I laid him back in my arms, with a washcloth close by to catch all of the medicine that would spill out of his mouth, and gave it another go.  Once again, he spit the medicine out … in my face.  I had been trying everything to get him to take the medicine, and had some sort of sweet treat set aside for when he was done.  I shouted and said “If you are going to spit in my face, you can’t get your treat!  I need a few minutes to myself!”  My sweet husband took Joseph on to the bath, and I tried to cool down.

I strive to be a gentle parent to my boys, and I think I was as crushed by my response as Joseph was.  I felt terrible about shouting, knowing that my goal is always to take a deep breath, and find a way to solve the problem together.  I want to set a good example for them about how to handle big emotions.  I decided that I could still set a good example, and went to find Joseph.  I walked into the bathroom and said to him, “I’m sorry for shouting buddy. I was feeling frustrated, but that doesn’t make it okay. I’ll try hard next time to use my kind voice.”  His response?  “I’m sorry for spitting medicine in your face, Mummy. I just didn’t like how it tasted.”  And just like that, the conflict was over.  He was done being upset with me, and I was done being upset with him.  I felt great healing in his simple forgiveness.


Emily and Joseph

Some days I feel like the servant that God called into the nations beyond his home.  I am constantly being challenged by my children, and my God, to become a better version of myself.  To become a better parent.  To become a peacemaker.  To share God’s vision of Shalom.  Joseph frustrated me beyond my limit, and yet it became a beautiful teaching moment for God and me.  I was able to accept the challenge.

“You are a good and faithful people, but sometimes you fail to see the power that is resident in your own story and fellowship. Look carefully, listen attentively, and sense the Spirit among you.”
Doctrine and Covenants 162:8a.

God is challenging you every day.  God is sending you forth, beyond the familiar, to the places that make you think, stretch and grow.  And God assures us that we will not be alone in those places.  Go there.  Know that even when you aren’t at your best, God can still help you to find the silver lining.  Be present in your own stories and their simplicity, and then remember to step back, see their power, and share them with your world.


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