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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Love Letter to Women

March 8th was International Women’s Day.
I saw on an article that day circulating on social media, about the influential women of the world, which included a list of people like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Bethany Hamilton, etc.  At the time, I didn’t give it much thought.  To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a Women’s Day.  Is there a Men’s day too?  

Today, March 10, 2013, as I was sitting in Relief Society listening to a lesson about Divine Destiny, I thought back to that article, and became overwhelmed with gratitude for the women in MY world, who have helped shape the person I am today.  I think of the stalwart women-leaders in the church, like Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who’s countenance had a Christ-like glow, and who was known for her grateful attitude and cheerful disposition.  I think of Shari Dew, who is such a strong example of being an intelligent, spiritual and hard working person.  She taught me the importance of cheerful perseverance; even when the path you’re on is not the plan you would have chosen for yourself.  I have come to relate to and need that counsel in my adult life, more than I ever would have expected back when I was a young woman taking in her magnificent influence. I think of Margaret Nadauld whom I remember being in the same ward with as a young child.  When she got called to serve as the General Young Women’s President several years later after their family had moved away, our family was giddy with joy for her new calling, knowing that she had raised eight (was it?) decent and handsome sons. She taught that the world needs more kind, genuine, humble, classy, gentle, nurturing, and strong woman today, instead of the more prevalent alternative.

As I zero in now, I think of people in my own world and my mind naturally flows to my years in the Young Women’s Program.  I think of such leaders like Teri Zenger, Ruth Ann Stagg, Dionne Halverson, Lana Lamb, and Brenda Gardiner.. These women would help form and shape my testimony in too many ways to convey in one short essay.  Suffice it to say though, that they provided settings for some of the most spiritual experiences in my life.  If time would permit, I would be able to speak of a memory (or ten) for each of the women (and there were many) who dedicated that time of their life to serving the young women of the Shadow Ridge Ward.  I express my appreciation for them all.  There was one in particular when I was a young beehive, who stayed for such a short time that I can’t even remember her name. But I remember that she was a returned missionary.  And I remember her testimony was so powerful, and her knowledge of the gospel impressed me so much. Even at that young age,  I watched her, and felt a stirring my very core that I wanted to be empowered with knowledge of the eternal things, and a strong testimony of the Gospel, and my thirst began.

I think of women in my adult life like Kathleen Boswell, Cricket Parry, and Nanon Record, who seemed to be placed in my path at specifically difficult times for very direct reasons.  And then there’s my first mentor at work, Sally Jones, who so often reminded me of my mother at a time when I was still learning how to live without her. I’m so appreciative of the love and support I receive from these women, and oh how I needed it!  Their timely friendship was so relevant to my current circumstances and I count myself blessed to know them. Besides the women above, I am literally surrounded on all fronts by strong, capable, compassionate, happy, successful women at work every day on the Pediatrics unit.  These nurses, social workers, and child life specialists, have taught me anything and everything I care to know about children, and they exemplify every day what it is to have “a mother heart.”   I am blessed to call them friends.

Speaking of friendship, I feel that I have the greatest, truest friends a girl could ever ask for.  My bestie of nearly 20 years Kristi (Jackson) Hyde, is a true friend in every sense of the word. I think it’s safe to say that no matter where time takes us, or what distractions come up, we will always have a safe place in our heart for the other to rest.  As you all likely know, when one spends decades of moments with another, all those moments add up to one big blur. In this case that blur is just… goodness and love, and comfort.  My friendship with Kristi is all those things for me.  I have another life-long friend, Anna (Hansen) Covington, who was born of such kind and good parents.  Anna is everything I want to be. She is loyal, supportive, healthy, loving, hard working, strong, humble, intelligent, and the list goes on.  She is such a good person.  She teaches me that we do and be good because it’s the right thing to do, not because of some reward we are creating for ourselves in heaven.  There was a time in my early 20’s when we almost lost her, and I remember the panic I felt.. “NO!!!! I thought!! Don’t take her, NOT HER!!!” I’m so thankful that it wasn’t her time.   

Of course I can’t mention friends without coming upon the dearest friend of my adult hood, Emily Ulrich.  She is my confidant, and she is one of few women who know all of me; the good, the bad, the ugly.  And she loves me in spite of all that.  She is so strong in the Gospel and she is such an example to me of being good, and I think that we both benefit from the different perspective we provide for each other.   I think that Gods timing for our friendship was so exactly perfect that it is one more testament of His reality.  In Emily's friendship, I have had someone who shares and understands my point of view on these specific challenges of extended single-hood. 

            Besides these lifelong few aforementioned, I have been blessed to come across many MANY friends at different times of my life. From childhood, all through now, I have had friends and roommates (both past and present) that have come into my life for a period of time, and have left an impression that added to the sum of whatever I am today. Amy, Jeannette, Aimee, Amber, Hollie, Tara, Cherina, Carly, Erica... there are too many to name them all... but I read a quote along time ago that has always stayed with me: “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.”  If you’re reading this, and we have crossed paths in friendship at some point in life, (you know who you are) I need you to know that I carry you all in my heart with gratitude for whatever space of time we’ve shared together.      

       Even in the mission field, (a place that is permeated with men,) was I blessed with some pivotal women who made the experience all the more tender for me. We can start with my trainer Shari (Kelsch) Bailey, who is beautiful, hard working, and hilariously funny.  She was known by all to be just gorgeous, but her heart was every bit as worthy of our praise. Her favorite song was “Where Love is,” and she exemplified love in a grand way. Through Shari, I was reminded that God knows me personally, and hears my prayers, because I had some very specific (maybe they were silly but they were so real to me at the time) requests and concerns upon entering the mission. 

       Next there is Diana (Carter) Rosenthal… a soul sister of mine. She and I have very little in common. We think differently, we like different things, and yet, one thing we both had was a clear understanding of why we were there, and Who we were doing it for.  Diana taught me that "Heavenly Father is the Gardener here;" that my plans are not always His plans, but His wisdom is sure. Diana was there the day I found out my Mom’s cancer was terminal, and she was there for everything else that followed that difficult test in my mission. For that I will EVER be connected to her and grateful for her love and support in what was surely the Abrahamic experience of my young life.

         There were women in the different areas too who I formed a bond with that is eternal.: Barbara Stifel, Shawna Marshall, Marcie Murphy, Ruthie Smith, etc. These women, my fellow sisters in Kingdom of God on earth, are examples of the kind of woman I want to be:  Giving of my time and talents, loving the Lord, willing to serve his children,  and possessing a mother heart. (There it is again… remember that talk? If not, look it up, it’s a goodie!) These women had mother-hearts!

          Finally I arrive to the women of my own family. I am the youngest of six children: Four girls and two boys.  My oldest sister Pam, despite the extremely difficult circumstances of her adult life, teaches me to carry on.  Even when it’s so hard you don’t think you can. Even when you cant see a light at the end of the tunnel. We just carry on because it’s simply the right thing to do.  

           My sister Kelly continuously teaches me about grace through her simple example.  She lives her testimony quietly and carefully and she has touched my life many times by a kind word or deed that was much needed.  But what I learn from her more than anything was that you can accomplish many miracles when you pay attention to the Spirit.  Her daughters are learning this too.  I know this because the other day I witnessed Mikaela show that same compassion and willingness to comfort one whom stood in need, based on an impression that she received.   
Laura, for a very long time was my only sister in law.  She has chosen to be a stay at home Mom in world that is constantly spewing out nonsense about “put yourself first, then give to others!”   She is an example to me of a woman who understands her divine role, and she lives it.  She is an exceptional mother to five beautiful children; four of them are girls who will grow up to be beautiful women themselves someday because she is teaching them that they are daughters of God.

          Next is my beautiful sister Kristy who I don’t talk with very often because she lives in New York, and we both have a healthy disdain for the telephone. She sends me things every so often just to let me know she is thinking of me, and when she visits, I always think: I want to be in her presence forever.  She is my biggest cheerleader in life and I like to think that I am hers too.  Kristy teaches me that not everyone thinks like me, and that valuing the different experiences and viewpoints of others who lead a different path is as important as any principal of the gospel I’ve ever been taught.
          We’ve added a new mother-heart to our family this year: my sister in law Jazzi.  I love her for loving my brother.  You know how Margaret Nadauld said we needed more kind, classy, humble, etc. etc. women?  Jazzi is all of those things. Well done, Chad.

         Josette, my step-mother, came into our lives almost seven years ago. She makes my Dad so happy in this late season of his life.  She has never been anything but kind and loving and accepting of me.  She has faith in me, and she tells me and shows me that faith often.  I love her for that, and I am learning to have faith in myself through her. And oh how she loves my father!  About two years ago, Heavenly Father blessed me with some perspective to see the Lords hand in linking our family with hers, and I’ve been grateful ever since.    

         Then there is my Mom’s only sister, Aunt Sue, who I don’t get to see very often. Ever since my Mom passed away however, when I do see her I want to run to her, and hug her and never let go. She is the one thing on this earth that makes me feel the nearest to being in my mom’s presence.  Strange how that works huh?  Even though she is so different from my mom in a lot of ways. She was so helpful to our family during the passing of my Mom.  She was there through it all. I remember coming home for that week while on my mission to the heaviest form of sadness and gloom I had ever felt in my life.  One day, to pull us from that abyss, she personally gave Kelly and I a full facial. It was the cutest thing, and it really did relax us, and help us forget our woes for a short time.  That small act of service, I will never forget.

          Of course I could not talk about women without talking about my own mother, Collene Davis. My mother’s influence is significant, and ever present, as are all Mothers to their children, I suppose.  Even just today when we sang the opening hymn in sacrament  “You Can Make the Pathway Bright,” my first thought was: My mother loved this song.  And in that moment I thought it was her way of telling me, Happy birthday my daughter. I love you!  So because I wasn’t ready to be done thinking about her, I requested that we sing the other hymn hat we both love “Scatter Sunshine..” in Relief Society.  I have never requested a song before. 

         As I sit here in this moment, reflecting on all of the countless influence I have had and realizing I’ve likely gone on far too long to keep anyone’s interest but my own, it occurs to me. The lesson that it took me nearly nine years to understand, and the reason I was impressed this morning to sit down and write about the women I love in this world: Heavenly Father has blessed me with all of these women BECAUSE he knew that my time with my own mother would be limited.  He also knew that I would spend a larger portion  (than most) of my adult life alone, and that I wouldn’t be a mother myself, for a while.  Therefore, all of these women, whom I love and whom love me, they ARE my Mother..  You see, collectively YOU ALL represent Collene Davis’ mother-heart.  And through you, I am given all of the things that she would have me learn, and do, and be, and carry with me to the day when I get to see her again.
So that’s it.  Happy International Women’s Day  (a little bit late, but that’s how I roll.)  J

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