Thursday, August 28, 2014

Women: The World Needs You

Women. What is your role here on this earth? What are you meant to do here?

I've noticed as I've explored this question that how I view womanhood, our purpose, and our role, has not been adequately articulated anywhere else. I want to record my thoughts if for nothing else so my daughters will have it recorded what I hope for them to bring to this world.

I used to think exclusive stay-at-home motherhood was what Heavenly Father intended for most women. That that was the way he planned it. And that although there should be some women doctors or school teachers or something of the sort, their's was a special calling, unique to their specific plan on this earth. Or that their job was bred out of necessity, and God understood that.

But now that I have been called to go to school (to what end I am still unaware) and I have started the process, a question has been burning in my mind. Would God ask me to do something that is bad for my children?

I have studied The Proclamation on the Family with some interest.

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

I was not aware until further reading, the difference in wording between the roles of men and women. Men are totally responsible for providing for their families. Women are primarily responsible for caring for their children.

Primarily is defined as: the main purpose, or in the first place. But primarily does not mean an exclusive focus, and neither does it mean a secondary focus.
Is leaving your children inherently wrong?

I think a woman of God can do it in the right way. 

I have realized this week as I've tried to figure out why God wants me to do this that I am not unique. God has a calling for every woman. A woman of God is always primarily contributing to her family, and secondarily to the world, in whatever capacity God directs.

But women are unique from men. I don't think we need to be ambitious or competitive, and make ourselves marketable in a man's world. As women we don't have anything to "prove." We don't need to prove that we have the smarts, or the know-how, the leadership, or the scientific prowess to compete with men. As women we are different. Not less. Not less smart, having less leadership skills or unscientific minds. Just different. 

Margaret D. Nadauld has taught: “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

These attributes of women should not live in an exclusive women's world, an alternate universe where we only speak to each other. Certainly there is a place for this. But I think more than another food blog what we need is refinement in a space that is not refined. Creativity in the challenges of weighty matters. We can showcase our womanly talents of kindness and ingenuity in correcting substantial, life-altering problems that can sustain others through hard times. I'm not sure what avenue it may mean for you specifically, but I know it is one where you are desperately needed.

It may be that you are needed to volunteer or be more involved in the community. In many cases, you may even be able to mentor your children by taking them with you. If we mothers find ourselves in the workplace, we can be absolutely clear. When you live your life as a mother first, finding the right experience will be easy. You can outline your priorities and admit the culture of work/life balance we are looking for. You can work part time, or less. Create the opportunity. If we can't find it, we need to make an effort to create it. Other cultures have better work/life balance, so ours is not set in stone. We cannot create it if we do not dream and attempt to make change.

If we seek to find opportunities like this, it's not the idea of working vs. staying home. We can primarily share with our family but also find ways to share with others as well. 

But why? Why make an effort to find something out of the home if we are happy here already? Why volunteer when we are already too busy? Why work extra if we are completely fine with the income our husband brings in alone? Because the world needs you. Some of the absolute best, brightest, most compassionate women I know are stay-at-home mothers. Not to say their talents are "wasted" at home, certainly not. The children they are responsible for are phenomenal. But the world needs more of this. The world needs more exposure to tender, refined, pure, and virtuous women. God created you as a way to preach His gospel. Preaching the Gospel in this way should not make you more busy. Cut out some of those extracurricular activities you think are teaching your children and teach them in a new way, that life is not about you but about others. If you currently work outside the home, find a way to show your kindness, goodness, and refinement the world is lacking. Make it more than "just a job" but a gift of yourself. This is God speaking through you.

Live it. Breathe it. And pray and ask God how you can glorify Him by finding the right experience for you.

Post edit:  I wanted to make clear that I am not suggesting that all women jump up and go find an 8-5 job. I am grateful that God has enlarged my understanding to see that work can be a way to serve, and many women may be called on to do it in the future. And that all of us, regardless of our work status, will be called on to serve Him in some capacity that (I believe) will be in addition to family and church responsibilities. As the Lord hastens his work, we will be asked to do more and contribute in ways that might not be traditional or comfortable to us.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our Sins and Struggles


We are children of God. That means that our natural inclinations are towards light-filled things. Helping others, speaking kindly, thinking hope-filled thoughts. When we act in contrary to our true nature, that is what is fake. God knows that we will sometimes act "fake." That is why he has given us repentance, the ability to shed ourselves of things that aren't in congruence with who we really are.

Satan feeds us a steady diet of "fake" so we forget who we are. When you are confused about your identity, you are more likely to let Satan control your life. In our world we call these addictions or bad habits. Swiping that extra cookie (or four). Scrolling through news feeds while we intentionally ignore our kids. Yelling. Berating our spouse. Watching questionable t.v. shows. Pornography addictions. When we have our hardest struggles, when we reach our darkest places, our lowest of the lows, we are usually alone or consumed by our own thoughts. We believe that dark place is how we really feel, and any happiness or joy we feel is fake. We believe the real person is the "bad" person.

It's a lie.

No matter how much "bad" you do, how low you feel, it can never outweigh the good that you are, inherently. In the Plan of Salvation, we are taught that the reason you are on this earth is because you chose Jesus Christ before you were ever born. Light is a part of the very nature of every person that is on this earth.

You can never erase all the good someone is. No matter how "bad" the sin is, the sin is just a mask over the real person. "I didn't know who you really were" doesn't apply in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You do know you they are. They are a child of God. And because of the grace of Jesus Christ, you can feel real emotions like love, hope, and joy even with a sinner, because we all are one.

It's because we don't know who we are that we are in this cycle of sin. All of us, any of us, who are stuck in addictive behavior live this way because our faith is not yet complete, and we have not yet seen the freedom that comes from believing in Jesus Christ. (Ether 4:15)

In our culture we can be guilty sometimes of creating a hierarchy of sins. There are "big sins" and "little sins." And certainly, there are sins that carry with them more severe consequences if left unrepented. Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "go, and sin no more." We can do the same, for ourselves and others.

We start bad habits when Satan convinces us to see ourselves as different than other people. It is not only dangerous, it's not true that you are the only one who has been tempted in this way, the only one who has "given in." While it might be helpful to have open conversations with others who can identify with you, the most helpful would be to learn of your true nature, to recognize your worth as a child of God.

How can we elevate our society? How can we become the kind of people God wants us to be, free of sin and devoted servants of Him? First, we can see each debilitating bad habit as a red flag for someway we can improve our faith in Jesus Christ. Second, we can help others learn of their worth and increase their own faith. This is not a lecture, this is treating someone with love and respect. It's usually felt more than heard. We can stop reacting with shock and surprise when someone has committed a "bad" sin. We can recognize within ourselves our own roadblocks from God, and see that we are not that different. We can see that there is no hierarchy in how "broken" someone is. We are not less "broken" because our "sin list" has "smaller" sins on it.

God wants all of us to return to Him. We can do that by overcoming our own secret sins, and providing the needed love and support for others struggling in theirs.

I love this video of my friend Amy, a great example to me of someone who understands their divine worth. No matter our sin, we can shine just like Amy does when we shed ourselves of the things that are keeping us separated from God.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thank You Grandma!!

We are so grateful for Grandma Dilsaver coming and helping us out while our boy was healing. We got to do a lot of fun things and Ephraim is back to his happy old self. And he grew those two front teeth that all of my kids have, that I love.

Thanks for coming Grandma!! You made what could have been a very stressful situation into a comfortable one! We love you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Miracles, Modern Medicine, & Gratitude

When Ephraim was born, they found a murmur in his heart. Before we left the hospital, we had a candid talk with the cardiologist telling us the scary symptoms to look for.

But they barely appeared. It was encouraging, and though highly unlikely with the type of hole in the heart that Ephraim had (a large VSD), our family started praying for a miracle. Please, bless our boy to be healed.

After several months of basically normal living, we went back for another test. The hole had not closed up. Although he appeared totally healthy, this did not bode well for the rest of his life, and it would have to be repaired.

I did some soul searching. In my reading I found the story of King Lamoni, who, although he knew the Lord could do all things, decided to act as a negotiator to help get his friends out of prison. It was silly of me, I decided, to think that the only way my baby could be healed was by an out-of-context act of God. He works through people too.

And that he did.

On August 6th, 2014, a skillful surgeon stopped my baby's heart for close to 2 and 1/2 hours and made repairs while he lived through a bypass machine. Ephraim was under surgery so long because the doctor was actually done, closing up shop, but things didn't seem exactly right. Our surgeon decided to put him back on the bypass machine and found another problem that he was able to fix. The first problem had been masking the second problem. A "miraculous" healing of the hole could have made our boy very sick.

The surgeon's hands were the Lord's hands. 

Not only am I grateful for our boy being fixed through surgery and his speedy recovery (he is currently making a great recovery comfortably here at home), I am so struck by the people who made it possible.

I think in awe of the surgeon. The path of his life. How many hours of homework has he done in med school? How many late nights has he spent studying and contemplating the functions of the heart? How much time and dedication he gave so that my boy could have new life? I could never be more grateful. Although I am grateful for "modern medicine" in general, I am grateful for him. For him making modern medicine possible.

I think reverently back on the skilled nurses in the CICU. These women are strong. They are not only skilled and knowledgeable, but gentle, loving and kind. As I contemplate my upcoming schooling, I was overcome by my gratitude that these women had given of themselves in this way. Here was a fellow mother, a nurturer, an advocate for me in what would have otherwise been a lonely place.

I am humbled by the service of my mother-in-law. This has been a tearful experience for my own mother, what with her being out of the country and all, so I was indeed grateful that my girls were in my mother-in-law's loving hands. She turned a situation where the cares of home could have been overwhelming and freed us up to focus on healing our boy.

We had so many people praying, thinking about, and personally reach out to us showing concern and love. I was grateful for them being the Lord's hands, buoying and lifting us up to let us know that we are not alone. But I was also grateful for their individual faith in Jesus Christ. Their individual good works. Not because God "favors" these people more, but because they make it possible for Him to bless them more.

But what if he hadn't been healed? Would your faith have been in vain? I don't know why some people's babies are taken and others are not. That was not the path I was asked to take this time. But faith is never in vain, you will always see a benefit in believing in God.

I will tell you one way your faith blessed me. I was never scared or worried about the outcome. It was unsettling to me, at times, that I was not worried, and I knew that it was coming from a source that was not my own. Thank you for giving me that gift.

And now I get to enjoy this gift in my arms. God gives and he takes away. May we never forget and ever be grateful for what we have.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

UPDATED Pray for our little guy today

Little Ephraim was born with a hole in his heart. Although the hole is considered large, he surprisingly has had very few symptoms. We have been blessed in this way. But the hole has not closed up, and can cause problems for him down the road, so it is being repaired by an able surgeon's hands. Please pray for our little guy that he will be healed through this miracle of modern medicine. His surgery is Wednesday, August 6th at 8:30am.

7am just before surgery

UPDATE 9pm 8/6/14

Ephraim is doing very well. He is out of surgery and on pain medication. The surgery went very well.

8/8/14 5pm Out of the ICU and doing great

8/9/14 11am Recovering so quickly. Our happy boy

8/9/14 3pm His sisters came for a visit

8/10/14 12:30pm Came home today!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to School

Over a year ago I had a spiritual experience that changed the course of my life.

Mother's Day 2013 I was at church, out in the hall wrestling a tired baby Delaney. A sister in our ward decided to share her "motherhood story" in her talk. She took us on an inspiring journey of having her four children while also receiving an MBA. Then she talked about receiving spiritual confirmation from the Lord that did not make sense to her: she should work outside the home.

My heart beat quickly as she spoke. Tears began to stream down my face. I stepped outside to catch my breath and held onto my baby a little tighter. I knew what God wanted me to do. It terrified me, but I could not deny it. I needed to go back to school.

I mused over it for a little while before approaching Ben. And I told him that if he didn't like the idea I would drop it entirely. I wanted us to be united in our decision. Surprising to me, he was very supportive and urged me to move forward.

I had applied to the MPA program once before, but had been rejected. Days later I found out I was pregnant with Cheyenne, so had just put it in the "someday" folder in my mind. I already knew what I would apply for. I met with an adviser ("Would you really admit somebody who's been out of the workforce for four years?") who was also encouraging. Despite all of the encouragement, I was still apprehensive. I decided that if I was accepted, I would take it as a sign from the Lord that it was His will. After applying I was accepted in February. I will start after Labor Day this year.

I have shared my news with very few people, simply for the reason that I know I will be misunderstood. I'm not doing this because I'm ambitious. I'm not trying to "do it all." I'm not trying to get away from my kids (I know it's hard to believe!) and I'm not looking for an outlet. Despite any struggles I have had as a stay-at-home mom, I would be happy and satisfied with being a stay-at-home mom for the rest of my days. I have been asked to travel a different path. This is not a "badge" I want to flaunt, or just simply something to do. I understand and live the stay-at-home mantra deep into my soul and my heart, so accepting something different has been a gut-wrenching paradigm shift for me.

The three children we have been blessed with, their "soul's education" is something I care deeply about and do not take lightly. It saddens me to have to share them with others while I go to school. But I feel very blessed to have had the distraction-free years we have had together, to cultivate and decide our family culture. Now, while I am at class, I will ask others to be stewards over the souls I have started. These are ultimately God's children who I am in charge of, and I know He is even more deeply invested in their education that I am.

It is mandatory that I take a full class load the first semester, 16 credits. I still haven't worked out all the details, but I know with the Lord's help they will fall into place. Am I scared? Yes. Stressed? Certainly. But I also aware of who I am, and I know despite the sacrifice I will find happiness in learning and growing. And knowing it is sanctified by the Lord has given me a lot of peace. I am following the path He wants me to be on.