Today I had a wonderful experience. I got to teach Relief Society (Women’s organization at church) for the first time in a long time. I had the choice of any talk from General Conference and I decided on one called Try Try Try by President Eyring. Here is the talk if you would like to read it (I think it would be encouraging to those of any faith).
The main thrust of the talk is about overcoming hard times and never giving up hope. Naturally it being Christmas time I decided to relate the talk to this time of year. I created a powerpoint to walk through the lesson, which I don’t always do but it just felt like the right approach this time.
Then I created slides of important quotes from the talk and questions to ask the class:
Then just for fun I added in some famous quotes from Christmas movies.
I was a little nervous going into it because technology can go very wrong and I am a bit rusty teaching (I was a Sunday school teacher for over 5 years in my late 20s so I was basically a pro!). The RS presidency went above and beyond to help me and were amazing and several of my friends came to listen to my lesson, which was very sweet.
To my relief it all went very well. Everyone made great comments and we had an uplifting discussion. I feel very inspired!
Here is the full powerpoint as a video. Feel free to use it as a family home evening lesson or anything else that might be helpful for you and let me know how it goes.
This is one of my religious Mormon-centric posts so feel free to skip if not interested in that topic.
I’ve been mulling over in my brain a gospel topic the last few days . Mothers Day (or what I call Female Guilt Day) always makes me feel a little sad. People can give me all kinds of reasons why that shouldn’t be but all that does is make me keep my sadness to myself. It doesn’t make it go away.
I know all the easy answers, the promises of a family for the righteous. I get all of that but it doesn’t mean a day celebrating the big part of being a woman I don’t have doesn’t sting a little bit.
I was particularly thinking about my new job and how grateful I am for the chance to do something I really love. There are no words for how much that means to me. A smile worthy of smilingldsgirl covers my face whenever I think about it. I am so excited!
It also occurred to me this week that taking such a position would probably be difficult if I had a family or was married. The position pays less than I was making and is at least for now part-time. However, it is an opening to start a new life, a new career! That’s the exciting part!
Plus, I still get to work from home and my finances are such that I can afford to take a pay cut. I also might not get insurance through my employer. We are still researching that. I feel so fortunate that I am at a spot in my life to take such a job. 🙂
Here’s the thing I could use some guidance on-
I try to be positive and not be a negative Nelly when it comes to my single status in a family church. It comes and goes but in general I think I am happier than most other singles I know. Nevertheless, for some reason it feels more justified in talking about the downsides of being single rather than the upsides. I can’t completely put it into words but I feel like I am not supposed to be ‘so’ happy in the single life, only moderately happy.
Let me try to explain-
It’s quotes like these that confuse me.
“And I would also caution you single sisters not to become so independent and self-reliant that you decide marriage isn’t worth it and you can do just as well on your own…”
So, we are supposed to be independent and self-reliant but not ‘so’ independent and self reliant. We have to live a good life but not to the point where we feel we can ‘do just as well on your own’. What does that mean? Should I feel continually like I am not quite doing ‘just as well’ on my own? Just as well as who? Married people? Just as well at what? Living?
He goes on:
“Certainly we want our single sisters to maximize their individual potential, to be well educated, and to do well at their present employment. You have much to contribute to society, to your community, and to your neighborhood.”
“We earnestly pray that our single sisters will desire honorable marriage in the temple to a worthy man and rear a righteous family, even though this may mean the sacrificing of degrees and careers. Our priorities are right when we realize there is no higher calling than to be an honorable wife and mother”
So if I read him right we can do many great things and that is encouraged, but at the same time we must be always hoping and waiting to give all those things up for marriage and family. It seems to me that somebody isn’t going to ‘maximize their full potential’ if they are constantly keeping an escape hatch available for their ‘true and higher calling’?
I know so many single Mormon women who feel unfulfilled because of that escape hatch. It’s like you end up doing a lot of mediocre things because the big thing you really want or feel a need to do you can’t. The thing that will make you the happiest you can’t do so you settle for medium-level happiness.
That doesn’t seem right. God wants us to be happy no strings attached. It doesn’t say ‘the plan of happiness except for single people who are merely content’
What is so wrong with devoting yourself completely to the role that God has given you to play at the moment you are playing it? In my experience it is only in such obedient moments that I am open to the promptings to change and grow, maybe even meet someone. Is that too independent, or too self reliant? I don’t think so.
It seems to me I am always happiest in life when I dive right into an experience with no back up plan or escape hatch. In fact, enjoying my single lifestyle can feel unfeminine and the opposite of the ooey goey woman I hear about on Mothers Day.
It can also seem like I am saying the single life is better than being married but I’m not. It’s just different. (And I do not think the single life is inherently selfish either. I hate when people say things like that)
I know such feelings are ridiculous. I should be happy when happy things happen but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at times conflicted with how happy I should feel.
What worries me is I don’t want to live a life in second place. The silver medalist, to my married friends who get the gold, and that’s kind of what the quote says. After all, we as singles can contribute to our employment, community, society and neighborhoods but… the higher calling is motherhood. That’s what we believe. And I think that is why Mother’s Day can be a little sad for me. It’s the day of the year where that Gold medal is thrown in our faces and we realize we have the silver.
But, I just can’t live my life that way. I believe that God has a plan for all of us and while we may not be fated to be with a particular person, I believe He does know when that event will happen. He needs me right now to work in his single vineyard and that is not a second place position.
Does that mean I am not open to a different vineyard? Of course not. Nothing would thrill me more than to find that Great Love but I am not going to settle for sloppy seconds waiting for it.
So, instead I will be happy for the good things in my life and not worry whether I am ‘too independent’ or ‘too self-reliant’ any more. God knows my heart and He has told me many times before when I need to straighten up and refocus my priorities.
I was a good missionary because I gave it all to that calling. I was able to get on that plane and have no regrets, and I don’t see why this phase of my life with my new job is any different? I’m going to give it my all and have a blast along the way. I am so excited!
I’m going to allow myself to feel 100% happiness while doing it. The truth is I am self-reliant and independent but I am also obedient and have a missionary heart. The Lord knows me, and He is guiding my path. He certainly helped me get this job so I might as well have a ball while doing it.
Anyway, forgive these ramblings. It was just something I needed to work out and I think I did as I typed. Hopefully my musings are helpful to someone out there.
Happy Mothers Day to all you amazing moms and to my own Mother.
Just a comment- this post is mainly for my LDS friends but feel free to read on either way!
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of nurturing. In the Mormon church nurturing is frequently the top verb used to describe women. The Family: A Proclamation to the World even says “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”
Despite the frequency of this verbage and its clear importance, the actual meaning of the word is a little fuzzy. I bet if you asked 100 Mormon women you would get 100 close, but sometimes strikingly different answers. Recently released General Relief Society President Julie Beck created great controversy in 2007 when she said:
“Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a “house of order,”
and, “Mothers who know…bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts.”
So, according to Sister Beck learning to nurture is more important than any other kind of education, and yet still what is it exactly? Surely, it is more than learning to iron and brush hair to perfection! Sister Beck goes on to say “Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home.” (Also, couldn’t homemaking be a home of one?)
Well, this confuses me even more because is not the standard of an orderly home completely subjective? I know people that even at our cleanest would find my parents home very cluttered and those that would see the reverse. And even if this is the definition is that something to build an eternal life and purpose around? Some of the most righteous homes I’ve been in were dirty, cluttered and even chaotic.To give Sister Beck more credit I am sure she would agree. As all general authorities she is required to teach an ideal and let us govern ourselves.
However, it still doesn’t answer the question about nurturing. What is it and how is it best expressed? Oftentimes I feel when it gets defined as homemaking it limits the scope of the word to those who are what I call ‘ooey goey’. Meaning they see a baby and coo. They want nothing more than to have a home with tons of kids and husband who provides for them. I loved reading Stephanie Nielsen’s book but she is totally that way, which is great. I’m not down-grading this in any way. In fact, I quite envy it but its just not me right now.
In fact, I’ve never been like that. I’m much more of a realist when it comes to family life and have never had a huge innate desire to have my own children. There are a lot of reasons for this but there it is. I’m open minded and willing to do whatever Heavenly Father asks but I don’t crave it like some girls.
For some single girls I know not having children is the great sorrow of their lives, and I just don’t feel that way. I don’t have a great sorrow. I’m happy with my life. This contentment sometimes feels wrong, like I should be desiring for these things more, but what good would that do me? I’m not avoiding them…Hmmm?
This makes me wonder- do I lack this essential trait of nurturing that is supposed to be so natural to women? Sister Beck seems to answer yes, saying quite bluntly:
“Mothers who know desire to bear children”. and again “Faithful daughters of God desire children.” That doesn’t make me feel very faithful…Hmmm?
There has to be more to it than that…
I honestly don’t know the complete answer and I wonder what Sister Beck would tell me to do? I’m sure she would be sweet and lovely but I wonder what advice she would give?
I always felt a connection with Martha in the Mary and Martha story in the New Testament. Am I a Martha who is focused on the more practical, instead of the intangibles like Mary? What can I do about that? Hmmm (Also, couldn’t the Mary/Martha story refute some of the perfectly ironed and brushed mothers Sister Beck describes above?)
The fact is we don’t know why some of us are given certain personalities, natures, desires and others aren’t? We don’t know why some are given certain opportunities and others are not, but isn’t it a comfort to know that God knows?
Even though I occasionally feel guilty and more than a little unfeminine for my personality, I know that God accepts me and see’s my efforts to be obedient. 99% of the time I am comfortable with who I am and what my role is in God’s plan. When those 1% moments happen He is there showing me my worth.
That said, I still don’t know 100% what it is I am striving for? I was talking to a friend the other day and she said I have nurturing qualities in ways that don’t necessarily involve babies such as entertaining, cooking, making friends etc. This was a very comforting thought. Perhaps I will enjoy certain parts of nurturing more than others. I am sure the priesthood enjoy and feel adept at certain responsibilities more than others. Nobody is perfect (and how boring would that be if we all were!).
In the new book Daughters In My Kingdom about the history of Relief Society they give the best definition of nurturing I can find:
“Nurture is a rich word. It means to train, to teach, to educate, to foster development, to promote growth, and to nourish or feed. Women have been given the great privilege and responsibility to nurture in all these senses. Sister Julie B. Beck taught about the role of nurturing: “To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers [should] create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes.”
I think I might have stumbled upon the answer- to nurture is teach, to educate. That is something I’m great at! I’m a really good teacher (maybe not as much for kids but I’m learning). When I left the singles ward 😦 I got an email from a girl saying:
“I just wanted to say thank you SO much for all of the Sunday School lessons you taught. I always looked so forward for you to teach. I have learned a lot from you and I know I have heard other people say that too!
You have such a wonderful personality and a very strong testimony. It is evident in the way you teach and the wonderful attitude you have! Keep up the great work and never stop being the wonderful person you are!”
Maybe I’m not so bad at nurturing in this form. Hmmm?
I think of book club and how I have fostered an environment of discussion or teaching cooking lessons to my sister and her friends or writing this blog to hopefully share and teach. Is this not nurturing? It seems so different than Sister Beck’s definition?
I don’t know if I have it 100% figured out but I’m on to something. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about knowing everything but about continually learning. For me at least these questions are not faith altering but faith refining. If we do not ask questions than we will never grow and our faith will remain stagnant.
Even the pioneer women there were some who became doctors and published newspapers, and others who had 15 children. They weren’t all the same, but it seems like they were all good at nurturing.
What do you think? How do you define the word nurture? What is the end goal of nurturing in regards to womanhood and progression?
“Her mothering influence has been felt by many hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, and she has refined the role of nurturer to an art form” Julie Beck.
For years quotes like the above would make me groan and roll my eyes. To many of my Mormon friends this may seem surprising, even shocking. How could I have such feelings about the divine roll of motherhood? I believe there are several complicated reasons for my unique views going back to my childhood.
When I was 10 years old my mother and father announced they were expecting a baby. In my young years I was nothing but excited about such news. In fact, a number of friends mom’s had babies and I was excited to be part of the trend. My father must have approached the news with more trepidation because he knew what a pregnancy meant for my mom. While no doubt excited to have more children, my parents knew that having a baby meant nearly-full bed-rest for my mother. At the time my dad was working to start his own software company and I can’t imagine what the stress must have been like knowing he was about to be both bread-winner and substitute mom for three children. No doubt there was many a prayerful night pleading to have the strength for his family and this new treasured baby.
Being a selfish child it was hard for me to see my mother in bed- especially in the beginning when she had both morning sickness and bed-rest. However, there were many positive life-lessons that came from this first pregnancy. I have memories of my sister and I (at 8 and 10) cooking meals for the family during that pregnancy. I know that Megan used to make muffins of all kinds (she still does). I remember when my dad brought home 10 lbs of barbecued beef because we had said we liked it once! I remember when Ben got mice and they had babies in the middle of the night (that was the one event my mother got out of bed for!). I remember when I tried to make maui smoothie for my mom and the blender exploded all over the kitchen (thanks to a kind neighbor for helping us with that one!). I even remember Megan’s baptism with a pregnant Mom in Winter- she did attend that event.
Clearly we learned a lot about working hard, caring for a house, cleaning, and taking care of a baby. On the negative side I learned that baby’s were hard work. Hard work that took both of my parents away from my life (again selfish child). This was amplified by our move across the country to Maryland when Anna was a year old. So now I had to make new friends in a new place while still adjusting to a new sibling.
Somehow I made it through the tough middle school years and was ready to start high school. You can imagine my mixed feelings when in January of that year my parents announced another pregnancy. This is when my little brother Sammy was born. Once again we had to go through the experience of my mother being sick and bed-ridden, except for this time we had to do it with a 5 year old to take care of. It was a good thing my dad was an independent businessman who worked at home, or I don’t know how he could have done it. I give him a lot of credit for holding down our family during those times.
Still for selfish me, it wasn’t enough. In my eyes my parents weren’t around for my high school events the way my friend’s parents were- and I blamed it on the care of a baby. I am not saying this was the right way to look at the situation. My friends would spend weekends in DC exploring, take trips to the nearby beaches (something we never did the entire time we lived in Maryland), and visit historical attractions. This was very difficult with an infant and a 5 year old.
I also had a very independent, prideful streak (and still do to a lesser extent) that refused to admit to any of these feelings or discuss them with my parents. Instead, I became super active with my friends and felt my family were a bunch of people I couldn’t really relate too. Luckily for my parents I also gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon at this time so I didn’t rebel the way I might otherwise have. At the time, Ben and Megan seemed like the similar ones, who longed to be at home. I just didn’t feel that way. Like many teenagers I felt different, out of place, and even a little lonely. I wanted to get out and explore the world. I did what I could in little Middletown but deep down inside I wanted more. This is where I first latched onto the idea of going to BYU, and I never gave up on that dream. This is also the time when I wanted to move out on my own more than anything else (my mother says I was ready to move out when I was a baby!).
Adding to my feelings was a young womens program (fantastic in many ways) that in my eyes focused way too much on motherhood. I felt like every lesson was on motherhood and how wonderful it was. These lessons failed to describe the bed-rest, labor, nightly care, isolation, and hard work baby’s need. I felt like they were living some different version of motherhood than my family presented. I grew to resent these messages, even in Conference. I have never taken well to being told what to do and with motherhood I felt it was the only option presented for women in the church. Like if I didn’t like or want to have my own babies I was a terrible person. You can imagine the conflict this created inside me.
As I grew up my testimony of the gospel increased in every way except for motherhood. This kind of explains why I was less-than-thrilled when my parents told me they were expecting again the spring before I first attended BYU. This was my dream and now I was going to be abandoning my mother to pursue my dream. I knew the road would be rough and I was actually quite mad at them. I remember Ben being mystified at my reaction- How could I not want another beautiful baby? Again, it was a selfish reaction.
The next few months were very difficult on our entire family. My mom tried her best to be positive but with both Meg and I gone she struggled. I felt guilty and sad for my mom but I think there was a side of me that also felt relief- relief for being far away from the stress and pressure. In an odd way my first summer in college was a picnic compared to what I saw as the stress of home. I don’t remember feeling homesick at all. Strange, hah?
Somehow my mother made it through and our family survived. Of course, now I can’t imagine my life without my siblings. They are precious to me beyond words- partly because of the sacrifice paid to bring them into the world. All three pregnancies were crucible moments for our family- particularly for my parents and us three older children. I feel we are united together in a way the younger three are not. They have not faced such a struggling time, and I hope they do not have to.
Even with the deep love I felt for my siblings I still had issues about motherhood. This continued all the way through my mission. Even today I get annoyed when I feel like the message is shared without any hint at the difficulties. To make matters worse I felt guilty every time I would hear about how natural and wonderful motherhood was. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel that way?Why I am the only Mormon woman who wasn’t crazy about having kids?
After much thought and prayer I finally found the answer that worked for me. It happened after reading D&C 64:34 which says:
“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days”
I realized “I have a willing heart”, “I do strive to be obedient”. I may be different from other women but the Lord loves me for or in spite of those differences. He will help me be obedient in all I do including being a good mother if the time ever presents itself. He will help me use the skills and personality I have to build His kingdom in some way. I know that is true.
With this revelation and another spiritual experience I will not share, I stopped worrying about it as much. All that I need to do is maintain a willing and obedient heart, and if the time ever comes that I get married and feel a need to start a family, the Lord will bless me with His strength and mercy. I know that is true!
I like to think of myself as a fun person- as a social person that people enjoy being around and for the most part I am. However, as I get older it seems to get harder to make friends and form groups? Does anyone else find this to be the case? I don’t know if it is because I have such great friends and do not feel the need to make new ones or if other people are too busy, or perhaps I’m not as agreeable as I used to be? It’s funny because I think my skills as a host have only improved as I’ve gotten older- and yet there seems to be less to host!
What brought all of these thoughts up is I have been trying to organize small groups for our church ladies organization called Enrichment. These groups are supposed to focus on a variety of topics and help all the women in the congregation feel included. In past wards I have had success in gathering girls for book clubs, cooking groups, and movie nights, but not in this ward. It is like pulling teeth to get anyone to come to anything. Yesterday we had book club and I picked a Jane Austen- Persuasion (so good!)- and I am embarrassed to say nobody came except for my roommate. A bunch of people had said they could come on Sunday but then nobody showed. Only 2 called with excuses (one had a flooded basement and another had a bad flu). On a side note- whatever happened to the notion of RSVP’ing. I grew up in Maryland where a little of that Southern hospitality creeped into the culture. If you said you were going to be somewhere, you better be in a hospital if you don’t show up. At least a call explaining why you can’t come should be common courtesy.
Don’t worry- I wasn’t devastated or anything merely disappointed that I couldn’t talk about the book and that my pretty tea party went unappreciated. Boo hoo! Thankfully Megan had read the book for her book club last month and so I called and we had a good discussion. Plus, my cute nieces and sisters are coming into town so we will have a tea party together! (In fact, on Saturday we are going to the Princess Festival in Lindon- how fun will that be!). The whole family is arriving tomorrow, and I can’t wait. It has only been a couple months since I saw them but it feels longer. Baby Nelle is crawling and pulling herself up already! Wow!
I am not intending this posting to engender pity- I have great friends, and I have a full life. I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends. It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low. I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah? I’ve even offered to have a party up at the rental homes with a hot tub and pool table, but nobody has taken me up on it. What do you all think? Is there an age where movie nights and game parties are passe?
This is a funny entry on SWPL that applies to the need to host dinner parties. Enjoy!
Though many would have you believe that white people come of age at Summer Camp, it’s simply not the truth. Immediately following graduation but prior to renovating a house, white people take their first step from childhood to maturity by hosting a successful dinner party.
It is imperative that white people know how to host a good dinner party as they will be expected to do it well into retirement.
At the most basic level, these simple gatherings involve 3-6 couples getting together at a single house or apartment, having dinner and talking for 5-6 hours. Though it might seem basic these events are some of the most stressful situations in all of white culture.
Hosts are expected to deliver a magical evening. The food must be home made with fresh, organic ingredients, the music must be just right (ambient, new, but not too loud), and the decorations inside the house should be subtle but elegant. The ultimate goal is to do a better job than the couple at the last dinner party while attempting to make everyone jealous and sort of dislike you.
The dinner party is the opportunity for white people to be judged on their taste in food, wine, furniture, art, interior design, music, and books. Outside of dictatorships and a few murder trials, there might not be a more rigorous judgment process in the modern world. Everything must be perfect. One copy of US Weekly, a McDonalds wrapper, a book by John Grisham, a Third Eye Blind CD, or an Old School DVD can undo months and maybe even years of work.
Even before guests arrive the pressure on the host is immense and it does not let up once people begin to arrive. While eating, drinking, and conversation are expected to fill up 5-6 hours, sometimes it’s just not enough. In order to fill the silence, white people will often turn to board games (Cranium!) or Wii Bowling. This lets everyone have fun together without having to really talk to each other, which is usually more fun anyways.
It is strongly encouraged to bring a gift to these dinner parties, usually either wine or some kind of dessert. If you are able to bring a particularly rare dish from your culture, you will be the star of the party. To seal the deal, be sure to explain as much as you possibly can about the dish: history, availability, and the proper way to eat it. Every white person at the party will be taking mental notes and will be in your debt for introducing them to something new and authentic. If a white person says they have eaten the dish before, it is best to respond by saying “you ate a watered down version. They don’t even sell this to white people, it’s that intense. Even I had to show ID.”
The entire party will universally acknowledge you as the top guests, even the hosts will appreciate you for bringing diversity to the table in both food and person form.
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