Like Mother Like Daughter

On July 13, 1995, my thirteenth birthday, I sat in the very back of a 1155566 passenger van on my way to YW camp. I remember seeing the leaders looking back at me with concerned faces and whispering in hushed tones. Then we made an unexpected stop at a gas station and I was told my mom, who had been in the hospital, was waiting for me to call so she could wish me a happy birthday. (She had been in and out of the hospital since the previous year, and now I realize I was never actually taken to see her in the hospital. Ever. Weird.)

I know from my eternally youthful face with zero wrinkles or sun damage you’ll be surprised by this, but if you look at my crypt keeper wrinkled hands you’ll see that I’m actually from “the good ol’ days”. When I was 13, very few people had cell phones. And pay phones were still in common use. Thinking about it now, I’m confused. How did they know I was supposed to call my mom? Did someone communicate telepathically with my leaders after we left the church but before we stopped at the gas station? In retrospect, it’s all a bit peculiar. But then again, its ALL a bit peculiar.

Anyhow, someone put in a quarter and dialed a number, got mom on the line and handed me the phone. Her voice was almost unrecognizable. Strained, weak, and feigning enthusiasm. The only part of the conversation I remember is the word “Terminal”. I didn’t cry. It didn’t ruin camp. It didn’t even ruin my birthday.

Months before, prior to mom even showing symptoms of cancer, we had been prepared. I was in my room laying on the floor writing poetry by candlelight. You know, like any normal twelve year old girl. Words were flying onto the page without effort. I finished a poem and felt that rush of satisfaction. But then I read it, as if for the first time. I began to cry. I went looking for mom and found her in the room next to me, also sitting on the floor, encircled by family history papers. I showed her the poem. She cried. She hugged me and said “please read this at my funeral.” Although we didn’t “know” then, we knew. And that experience, while surrounded by generations of ancestors as she worked on binding our family together through temple sealings, gave me peace and the assurance of eternal families.

When mom actually died, I didn’t cry. A neighbor rebuked me harshly that day because I was out and about, not mourning or looking grieved. As an adult I reflected on that period and wondered if I was really that self-absorbed that her death didn’t shatter me. But more than grief, I was enveloped in peace. She had promised she would be there for all of my big life moments. And I believed her. She visited me in dreams and sometimes in profound waking moments of intense sensory awareness of her presence. I knew our family was bound through temple covenants. Really knew. I believe Heavenly Father made her death “easy” on me because my strength would be tested so vigorously by my father’s quick remarriage, and the trauma I would then be dealt.

This is all just background. Heavy background. Shake it off.

Georgia and I are cut from the same cloth. I truly *know* that girl on such a core level. This has been from day one of her life. But it gets even more real as she grows and I see our similarities. Lately, the thought has been percolating, that my relationship with Georgia can help me better relate to and remember my own mom.

When I was two or three years old, my mom would pile laundry onto her waterbed. I would sit in the corner of the bed, swishing the water under me while she folded. I would wrap myself up in a blanket and say “Mom! Open your present!” Over and over again, although sensing that I was trying her patience, she would acquiesce and unwrap her gift. Inside she would find, every time, a puppy with panting tongue and wagging tail, hoping to be petted and played with. And as soon as she would lose interest I would wrap up in the blanket and try again. Several times a week, Georgia does this with me, except she’s a kitty cat and waterbeds aren’t even a thing anymore. Although it gets old, doing this time after time, I remember that longing feeling of wanting my mom’s attention and wanting her to be so thrilled by her new pet. So I try to give that to Georgia until I can distract her with another activity.

As a child I had a terrible time falling asleep. I would stare into the shadows for hours, bored out of my mind, sometimes frightened, just wishing I could sleep. When mom finished tucking me in and stepped towards the door, my heart would lurch. I would beg for another hug and then refuse to let go. I felt like I was being abandoned alone in the dark. If I heard her anywhere in the house I would call out for her. I just wanted her there, wanted affection and felt utterly desperate. Now I understand. She’d had long days and she wanted me to just go to sleep. Sure she loved me but she had a lot to do. But now, when Georgia stretches out tuck-in time and then cries desperately for us… I go in. I can hear myself as a child in her voice. I remember feeling this unquenchable need for affection and never getting my fill. I know Georgia knows that feeling and I know even my best efforts may still leave her wanting. But so help me. I’m trying. When I hear that cry, I’m there. And I stay until she gives me permission to leave. My mom probably didn’t have that luxury. But I do. So I’ll take it.

These and other experiences cause me to see myself, as if through my mother’s eyes. As I look at Georgia I see how much I was loved and cherished. In spite of living more than 20 years without her, I am beginning to understand mom’s love for me. I feel her urging me to take the time with my kids and, above all, make sure they know they are loved. I pray that my kids’ memories will be of annoyance that I showed them too much affection, rather than that hollow longing for more. I may not spoil them with material things, but so help me, I can spoil them with love. Or at least I can try.

 

 

Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be

Each week of my mission in Guatemala, I ended my letter to the mission president with the same statement. “There is nowhere else I’d rather be.” There were good weeks, bad weeks, exhilarating weeks, exhausting weeks, but I truly meant it each time I wrote it.

When I finished my mission and began my career and single life, I jumped into it with the same zeal I had in Guatemala. Or at least I tried. Although the desire of my heart was to be a wife and mother, I knew there was great purpose in my life, regardless of when/if a family happened.

As the years passed, I was given extraordinary experiences. I fed my adrenaline-junky addiction with things like rock climbing, sky diving, xc skiing, and cycling. I fed my gypsy spirit with travel from the tiniest ghost towns of the west, to the pyramids of Giza, and many places in between. I fed my soul with profound spiritual experiences in temples, in service, in study and in worship. And I fed my heart a steady diet of wonderful friends, mentors and family relationships.

I would not trade a day my mission, or life before I married RJ.

But last week a friend reminded me of how hard that time actually was, and that in the midst of it, I wasn’t satisfied. RJ was out of state, so the girls and I road-tripped to visit Dave and Elisa Martin, who had moved to Idaho last year (thereby breaking the heart of Georgia, as they took Camden and Breck with them). Dave and I were good buddies back in our wild single days and went on many adventures together. Last week he reminded me of something I said after a memorable Christmas Eve we spent backpacking in deep, pristine winter wilderness under sparkling skies. “Yeah… but I’d rather be changing diapers.”

Now, a flood of memories are coming back.

In my annual reviews with my boss/mentor Bill Reynolds, he would ask what my dream job was, and what I was doing to qualify myself for it. Each year I would say “Being a wife and mother… But if not, I am on exactly the professional path that I want.”

When I was experiencing something significant like Tikal Temple IV or the Treasury in Petra Jordan, an orphanage in Mexico,  the cherry blossoms in DC, a week in a sailboat, or the tippety top of Twin Peaks, I would be filled with both immense gratitude that I was there, and equal sadness that I was not there with my husband. In every case, I was with amazing people. Yet my heart ached because I felt so alone.

During a chat with the stake presidency I served under, President Smith asked why I was involved with other humanitarian organizations when my job didn’t require it. “I’m making the most of plan B!” My reply sparked a lengthy discussion (and thereafter a speaking assignment) about the importance of finding joy in plan B, while not letting go of plan A.

Although family life was my plan A, I have to admit my interest in it was theoretical – based on my faith that being a mother is my eternal role. I wasn’t feeling the biological pull to procreate. When I babysat, I was thrilled when the parents returned. And frankly, I had minimal knowledge about what parenting or marriage really was. I just knew that was God’s plan. I longed for the companionship of a loving husband, but kids… not really. When RJ and I miraculously came (back) together and married, I wasn’t in a rush to get pregnant. Then something primal changed in my body. My brain re-wired. And all I wanted was babies. BAAAAAYYYBEEEEEEEZZZ!

And now, after all of these years, I’m a MOTHER. Like, a legitimate stretchy pants and messy bun, diaper changing, sandwich making m-o-m.


Now, there are moments where I honestly think my rage is going to spill over in terrifying ways. There are afternoons where my patience is so far gone that I have to literally run and hide to get 2 minutes alone to pray for strength. There are times I would looooooove a fast-forward button.

BUT. Once again I can honestly say “There is nowhere else I’d rather be.”

All of those past my stage of motherhood say how fast it goes by and how I’ll miss it. For myself, I think it’ll be like Guatemala. For every bit that I loved my mission and wouldn’t trade a day of it, I have to say… I don’t want to go back. Because as good and profound as it was, it was also that hard. And the present and the future have equal opportunities for experience and JOY. Every stage has its glories and its terrors. The trick will be, like it has always been, to focus on the magic happening right in front of my eyes, and trust in grace to carry me through the trials.


So for now, I’ll grit through the pregnancy symptoms, the endless task of picking up, the whining (not mine, the kids, silly!), the exhaustion of being so needed, the constant awareness of my failures, and the “MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!”. And for now, I’ll also hold on to the softness of round cheeks, the feathery tickles of strawberry blond bedhead, the bursts of giggles when daddy comes home, the sweetness of mispronounced words, the dangling toes on an oversized toilet, the opportunity to spend time examining and enjoying tidbits of nature,  and the sheer pleasure it is to witness the magic of childhood.

Roller Coasters

Confession: I totally failed at March. I know, I know. My whole, “treat yo self month” was going to change the way the earth rotates on it’s axis. I was supposed to counteract the pre-spring grumps with little daily delights and I would magically like March and be a bearable human being. Well, I gave up. I gave in. I succumbed to the cold, dark, grimy mucky month of March. I didn’t ‘treat’ anybody. And it carried into April. And it was bad. Like, really bad. Like, the worst ever. Like, if you saw me on the street you would cross it, pull your hat down and shuffle FAST.

And on that note… I have some great news! I’M PREGNANT!

So lets back up, shall we? Here’s a super condensed background.

  • After 2 miscarriages and struggling to conceive again, I realized (in retrospect) I went through some postpartum depression before Georgia was conceived. In spite of being wildly sick (and anxiety) throughout the pregnancy, that child was/is a rainbow baby in every way.
  • Millie was conceived the first month of trying. Glory be! Goodbye fears and anxieties! Aside from a minor cross-country move, this pregnancy was healthier and comparatively easier. I even willed her to be born on her due date in a less dramatic entrance than Georgia made. But then I was bull-dozed by nerve damage from the birth.  Still, with a miraculous healing, I was again able to enjoy that precious little wonder-baby.
  • I felt prompted to do Natural Family Planning (NFP), which, in my mind, was because perhaps the Lord wanted us to have another (final) baby sooner than later. But then Millie self-weaned at 9 months, at the same time I found a growth on my cervix. Obviously NFP and was God helping me find the cancer and early weaning was so I could get treatment. Before tests came back I had come to terms with fighting the fight, and also with being done having children. But then it wasn’t cancer. But doc was saying things like “precancerous” and “IF you can get pregnant with this growth…” and “IF you can keep a pregnancy with this…” So we tried for a few months. Nothing. I had a procedure, nothing. I was slowly going to that crazy place that women go when their biological clock starts ticking so loudly that it drowns out everything else. I decided two kids was plenty for me. I had a profound spiritual experience saying I had a third kid coming. STILL wasn’t getting pregnant. Doc suggests infertility treatments. Prayers. Fasting. Hoping. Wondering. etc. etc. etc.
  • March hits. Damn March. I’m nauseous, tired, belching like a sailor, and food has lost all its joy. RJ forces his “delightful” wife to take a pregnancy test. It’s positive. He’s elated. I’m not. Depression hits hard. I WAITED for this, I yearned for this, I prayed and fasted for this. And now it’s happening and I’m not happy??!! Guilt takes me further down. We aren’t telling anyone, but I don’t want to talk to anyone anyway. Life is terrible. Wo is me. I’m cursed.
  • RJ suggests maybe I need a little support. The inspired Marcie texts me a few times saying I’m on her mind. I know why. I open up to her. She shares her prenatal depression story with me. Her empathy puts wind in my sails. As we slowly begin to tell family, the darkness starts to lift.
  • First appointment ultrasound shows a healthy baby, but also a uterus full of sub-chorionic hematomas. Somehow, knowing there are complications, it makes me fight more for this baby and want it more and more, and my enthusiasm builds!
  • I have to cancel plans to attend wedding events back east for my beloved Emilia Bedilia. SO. MANY. TEARS.

The past 3 months have been an emotional rollercoaster… No no no. *I* have been an emotional rollercoaster and my dear husband and children have been good sports to stay on the ride.

I am becoming joyously happy. Almost as happy as I am sick and exhausted! And now that I can see past the darkness, I just have to say… mental health is important. I don’t have any sage wisdom gleaned. I just gotta say TAKE CARE OF YOUR FREAKING BRAIN, PEOPLE!

I am SO GLAD to be going through things like this in a day and age where mental health is valued by society. Although I am yet to benefit from medicine or therapy for myself, THANK HEAVENS THEY ARE AVAILABLE!  I think about dear friends and family who have gone through the darkness and those who have been helped by meds/therapy and I just want to say ALLELUJAH!!!

This is not to minimize the importance of reaching out to God. God can heal, support and strengthen anyone with mental illness. And in this case, I think that’s where credit is due.  Just saying, take care of your brains and let God take care of you. That’s all.

She will find what is lost

Treat Yo Self: Eating Oranges in the Shower

The interwebs are strange. One minute you’re checking your bank balance and the next you’re watching videos of a family of bears swimming in someone’s backyard. No one knows how they fall into a click-hole, but they’re sure hard to get out of.

In a recent fall, I read about the Shower Orange Movement, where believers tout the virtues of peeling and consuming an orange while showering. I chuckled. I shared the article with a friend. And then, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Would the combination of citrus and steam bring me to a new state of nirvana? Would the joy of having sticky juice instantly washed away while crescents of sweetness filled my mouth be a sensory explosion?  I pledged to try it for myself. Was this, as promised, “the self-care you didn’t know you needed”?

After a particularly unmotivated jaunt, I needed perking up. Before stepping into the shower, I ran downstairs and grabbed an orange, smiling at my choice in a spouse, who had so carefully chosen large, thick skinned oranges – the kind that peel easily and are exceptionally juicy. Mmmm. Good husband. Good orange. As the steam began to fog the glass door, I shed the peel and dropped it at the drain. This was fun. The segment was so large it took a few bites to consume. I realized my OCD was NOT enjoying the peel on the ground, in spite of its invigorating aroma. Although against the rules of the movement, I scooped it up, jumped out of the shower and dripped over to the trash. Back in the shower I took in a deep breath and savored the coldness of zippy citrus in my mouth as warmth washed over my head and body. Life changing? No. But indeed, I was converted. This sensory experience caused me to be fully present in the moment and mindfully happy.


In my elevated mood I made a resolution. I typically resent March and it’s fickle weather patterns and contradictory moments of simultaneous sunshine and bitter cold, new green growth and crusty snow.  But I will not let March get me this time. On March 3rd I dubbed it the month of Treat Yo Self <—watch that!!!. Each day of this month I will find a small way to be personally delighted. Here are my rules:

  1. Activities must not affect the family budget.
  2. Activities must not infringe on anyone else’s delight/energy
  3. Activities may come from a pre-made list but should be chosen in the moment, particularly at a time of day when I’m feeling Marchy.

This exercise is somewhat reminiscent of why I started blogging years ago. It was an intentional foray into joy inspired by the book The Happiness Project.

This is how it’s gone so far:

March 3: see above

March 4: I’ve been wanting to paint my front and deck doors. I know its effort, but I knew it would make me happy. And it did.

March 5: Every so often I get a hankering for a fizzy, splishy splashy drink. Just my luck, RJ had conveniently picked up some Sprite last week (see, best spouse) and we have a small collection of soda syrups. BAM! Italian soda in hand, instant smile.

March 6: RJ was working late, the girls were whining and my patience had expired. Also, COLD. The idea of lighting a fire is often too much effort, but not for TREAT YO SELF month! Fire lit, girls fascinated,  mom warmed, RJ came home and fed the fire, we had FHE and spent the whole evening at the mantle.


March 7, Today: Well, I had a shower orange. Joyful. I had a fizzy drink during nap time, lovely… I know, doubled up but repeated. Doesn’t feel complete. But spending a few minutes writing is pleasure for me. So as soon as I hit publish… CHECK!

So YOU! Do it! TREAT YO SELF!!!!! And report here what you’ve done!!!

Bliss is not the norm

Nine out of ten days, Georgia does not nap. But I waaaaaaaant her to nap. Somehow, in my brain, I’ve determined that napping is the norm so I’m a bit disappointed nearly every day because it doesn’t happen.

For one week during the darkest winter days, both of my girls slept until 8am. It was marvelous. Now, I’m a bit disappointed that they wake up close to 7.

I really like a clean house. I work hard to maintain order around here. Yet every single day, I’m swimming through the debris of childhood.

I once made a dijon chicken recipe that was delicious. I’ve made it 4 times since and it wasn’t very good. But I keep trying because the first time was soooo good.

Whether it’s fast internet, well-behaved children, smooth traffic, family relationships, or anything else, I tend to fall into the same trap. I mistake the IDEAL for the NORM. I’m then in a state of constant disappointment because the ideal is elusive and rare.

A good portion of discontent could be eliminated if I could simply embrace mediocrity. I know that sounds terrible. I just mean to say that life is rarely ideal. If we wait for ideal circumstances to be happy, we’ll never, ever, ever be happy. This is NOT to say we shouldn’t strive for the ideal. Just that our happiness shouldn’t depend on attaining/maintaining the ideal. I’ve been pondering on this for some time when I stumbled across a quote from my favorite man, President Hinckley, that sums it up perfectly.

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Three

As I flew through my early twenties and then inched into my upper twenties as a single gal, I had adventures, fulfilled my dreams and was able to experience more than I ever imagined. Yet each year seemed infinitely long. I ached to be a wife and mother. I often doubted it would be in my fate. Even when I married and we tried for kids I wondered. After two miscarriages and hitting that body-destroying 30 year mark, I was pretty discouraged.

Then along came the rainbow.fullsizeoutput_1f65

After a very vomity pregnancy filled with anxiety and fear, and a very late, lengthy and arduous labor, Georgia Marie Spencer rocket launched her way into our family. Fear melted away. Joy overflowed. I became, forevermore, a mom. She gave me this title and was patient as I figured out how to go about it. I knew she would change me and teach me more than I would ever change her or teach her. I knew this little person would take over my world in a wonderful way. But I was really surprised that I knew her.

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When Georgia was born, everything about her seemed so familiar from the shape of her nose, her voice, even her strong-willed personality. It felt like I had known her my whole life. Nothing, absolutely nothing about her, has ever surprised me. Shocked me, absolutely, but never surprised me. I’m familiar with her on such a cellular level that its challenging for me to recognize where I end and she begins. And I often struggle to remember she is only a child. She is not a mini-adult. She is a child. But the weirdest thing is that she seems to know me just as well.

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Now, the years are not infinitely long. They are blindingly fast. I remember exactly what it felt like to wait for her, for years. And when I reflect on it, the heaviness of those years is still palpable. But now, she is three.

THREEEEEEEE. Tres, drei, III, 3.

Three years once seemed like an eternity. Now it’s a blink. Its unreal that all of that waiting, hoping, praying and wondering are gone. And so is all of that rocking, nursing, swaddling, toddling, repeating words, potty training, hovering, teaching basic skills, sleep training,… They’re gone.

And here she is, three whole years into life. And absolutely, utterly, completely… phenomenal.

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At two, Georgia’s vocabulary and coordination were off the charts (although her impulse control and attention span were very much on the charts). Her complexity of thoughts and feelings, her opinions and priorities, her determination to have everything follow rules and order… I’m not the only one who mistakes her for a mini-adult. People often mistook her for a petite 4 year old. At one, she said “Harper-show”, at two, she said “Hop-is-sole” and now, at three she heart-crushingly says “hospital”.

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Always in-character, this kitty cat is the Alpha of our family. Sometimes unwillingly, often unwittingly, we fall in line and do as “dis kitty” says. Whether its playing “Hi get chu!” (the game she made up at 1 year old that is still her favorite and still pronounced the same), or determining which grocery store we go to, she’s the boss. Even when she plays with older kids I catch them submitting to her exact will and pleasure. She’s a natural leader (albeit an emotional one).

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Like myself, Georgia is a lover of words. She will happily listen to books on CD (right now we’re very into Love and Logic, a parenting book). She memorizes poems, songs, scriptures, etc. with seemingly no effort. She spends hours reading each day. She loves learning new words. Last week we were talking a lot about empathy. Every day she would ask for different examples of it until she figured it out. And boy did she. At her birthday party on Saturday, Ben Rowser, was sad that his mom wasn’t there. He sat on the stairs and started crying quietly. She immediately went to him, put her hand on his shoulder and said “That must be so sad! Don’t worry, she’ll be here soon.” After the party she told me, “Mom! I had empafee for Ben!” I was so proud of her it brought me to tears.

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Favorite foods: “robbem noodles” (Ramen noodles) and chocolate. Clearly we are all about nutrition.

Favorite song: Sometimes I feel Like a Sad Song, John Denver. She begs for this song, and will sometimes make herself actually cry and afterwards will fake pout and talk about being all alone. SHE LOVES BEING SAD?!

Favorite activities: Being chased, eating snow and/or sledding, performing the Nutcracker Ballet (in her “ballerina dress”, and being Doctor Georgia, giving check-ups, shots, x-rays, and performing first-aid, ROLLER COASTERS.

Favorite books: The Human Body, and Clifford the Big Red Dog

Least Favorite activities: Eating, peeing, sleeping, wearing clothes. You know, basic life functions.

Talents: Memorizing anything, praying, gymnastics “tricks”, organizing/OCD-ing, singing with perfect tune, forgiving me when I’m “not nice”.

Pet peeves/jealous rage inducers: Millie doing or touching ANYTHING.

Best Friend: Teddy. ALWAYS TEDDY. Also, blanket (aka Kitty Fur).

Favorite places: The mountains,  the library, GRANDMA’S HOUSE.

Unique qualities: Spirituality and service

Quirks: NOT cuddly… except when she’s eating. The higher the chance of stains, the cuddlier she becomes.

Goals for the next year: Ride more ferris wheels, have lots and lots of birthday parties, make more cookies, get shots.

Favorite things to say: “WHY?” “MOM! I have a magnificent idea!” “Can I have some chalk-wit?”

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Feminism: A Letter to My Girls

A few years ago, when Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, many of my LDS friends were troubled. My heart ached for them in their wrestling and doubts, though for me, I did not see it as a slam against women. But the conversation stirred a lot of my own thoughts on feminism, women’s role in the Church (or anywhere) and womanhood generally. Women have come so far in gaining equality, but there is still much work to be done. What kind of world would my daughters experience and what could I do to prepare them? At the time, it was only Georgia, and I began writing her a letter on this topic, but never fleshed it out.

Today, as women are marching all around the United States (and around the world), in defense of women’s rights, in protest of Donald Trump’s treatment of women and marginalized people, and also marching with a thousand other reasons all to say WOMEN ARE AWESOME AND EQUAL, I am filled with emotion. My reasons are unique, and while I agree with many, I also disagree with some of the platforms I’ve read about for the march. But my empathy for women is brimming.  And my admiration for men and women working for a better world for ALL people has brought me to tears several times today, as I read friends’ posts online.

To be honest, I’m terrified to put my words out here. I’m afraid I can’t adequately express myself. I’m afraid I’ll offend. I’m afraid I’ll add to the divisiveness that exists. I’m afraid what I might say wouldn’t even begin to address all of the important issues. But maybe I don’t need to document “my stance” on every issue. Maybe what I need to do is finish that letter to my girls, and hope its a continual conversation I have with them across many decades.


Dear Georgia and Amelia,

In your life you will at some point feel marginalized, victimized, less-than, stereotyped, cursed by Eve, not strong enough, not ___ enough, “too emotional”, hormonal, “crazy”, and also a million other negative things, simply because you are a woman. And that is not fair.

On the other hand, you will at some point feel empowered, supported, honored, overqualified, inspired, driven, and limitless, simply because you re a woman. And that’s awesome.

At different stages of life you will wrestle with different questions and you will even discover bigotry within yourself. As you travel your own path of feminism, I hope you will keep a few things in mind:

Doubt

Doubt is a valuable tool. Please let your doubts push you to study, push you to think it through from every angle, push you to pray and LISTEN for God. Sometimes He will give you quick easy answers, but often you will have to wait, and receive answers slowly. Piece by piece. I promise you, if you stay faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, ALL ANSWERS WILL COME. This has been true for me in my turmoil over gender issues, and it will be true for you.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:2)

Joseph Smith once prayed for a simple answer and instead received a glorious, heaven-opening, world-changing answer. You too will receive more answers than you expected.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)

But as you seek for answers, my precious girls, I ask that you hold onto what you already know to be true and share that gently with those around you. Approach God saying, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Rather than recruiting others to your doubts, recruit them to your faith.

Bigotry:

Because of your own experience, the biases of your own parents, family and friends, the media, and culture generally, you will at some point discover that you too are infected with bigotry. Some of it will be obvious and easy to eradicate from yourself as you learn and mature. Much of it will be subtle. Watch yourself. Be kind. Only say things about others that you would want said about you. Do not generalize groups of people. Ever. The only real solution to personal bigotry is charity, the pure love of Christ. As you pray for charity, you will begin to see people as God sees them and your ingrained bigotry will dissipate. Apply this view to groups as well as individuals. And please, my precious daughters, apply this to your view of yourself as well.

Take Courage from the Prophets:

The world’s view of gender and gender roles is different from God’s view. But in modern revelation God does establish men and women as equals, again and again. Though there are still cultural biases, and practices that will make you question if God really sees us as equals, take courage from the Lord’s voice, as heard through his prophets. For example:

“In the marriage companionship there is neither inferiority nor superiority. The woman does not walk ahead of the man; neither does the man walk ahead of the woman. They walk side by side as a son and daughter of God on an eternal journey. Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.” Gordon B. Hinckley manual ch 10

Recognize that although roles may be different, neither gender is superior in the eyes of the Lord.

Be Grateful:

I don’t care if you are the kind who marches and protests, or the kind who quietly enjoys her freedoms. But oh, my precious girls, be grateful for those who have fought for you. SO MANY WOMEN have sacrificed and suffered so that you would have the rights you have today. Do not forget about their bravery, their willingness to do anything necessary to provide future generations with freedoms, rights and opportunities. Study the lives of these women and their associates: Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul,  Maud Wood Park, Rose Schneiderman, Eleanor Roosevelt,  Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai. This list is a mere starting point. We take for granted the benefits of their battles as they pushed through patriarchy and warred against misogyny.  I do not care if you’re an activist or not, but honor those who have brought us this far.

You are Cherished:

My dearest girls, it pains me to think of the things you may suffer because of your gender. The fear of assault and rape, the focus on beauty over brains and sexual objectification, the wage gap between men and women, the “shame” of public breastfeeding, the judgment felt from not being “normal” in one way or another, the reality that sometimes you’re not taken seriously because you’re a woman… But please, please, please, in those moments of suffering, remember that you are cherished. You are loved beyond comprehension. You have family on earth, and a Heavenly Family, that are cheering for you, proud of you, and are here to console and encourage you. We see in you the capacity to overcome all odds, and the strength to move any mountain necessary. And when you can’t see it yourself, let us remind you.

Love,

Mama