Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Look and Believe

I got my copy of my church's (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) magazine, the Ensign, in the mail today.  When it comes I typically read it cover to cover and then reread favorite bits throughout the month.  It is my escape. It is a quiet time to reflect on my life; on the progress I am making toward becoming the woman I want to be.

Lately there has been a lot of discussion in articles within the magazine and all over the internet about the role of women in my church (among other things).  I was happily reading through an article by Elder M. Russell Ballard when he encouraged Latter Day Saint women like me to "show the world what women of God who have made covenants look like and believe."  He counseled us to do so wherever our sphere of influence is, including in our blogs.

My first thought was that no one cared about my opinions on the matter.  But Elder Ballard continued to extend this invitation to let our voices be heard, and so I thought, even if twenty of the people who might read this post don't care, maybe there will be one who is interested in knowing what I think, and how I feel, about my church and God.

So here I sit, trying to sort out what words to use and where to put them.  I think of the many people that I love, fiercely, that have opposing views of many of these beliefs that are so sacred and dear to me.  To them I want to speak first: I love you very much.  I love you so much, that I know that we can disagree about some of these things and still be friends.  I know that you are intelligent.  Even though we disagree about some (or all) of these things, that disagreement does not make me think less of your intelligence.  We each are free to choose how we think, feel, and believe.  I recognize your freedom to make that choice.  It in no way diminishes my respect and love for you.

That said, I will now follow Elder Ballard's counsel to try and show the world what I look like and believe.

I am five foot seven and a half, with long, thin blonde hair.  I have blueish-greenish eyes with a circle of brown around my irises, like a dark sunflower facing the sky.  I look like I have had four children.  I leave that statement up to your personal interpretation to visualize.  I probably look like I enjoy going outside for a run, or to work in my garden, or to play with my kids, and that I also enjoy making and eating cookies and brownies.  I look like I am getting older, and the evidence is mainly seen when I smile for that is when the wrinkles typically manifest themselves the most.  I strongly suspect that I have a friendly and helpful appearance, because it is almost guaranteed that if I am in a grocery store or other such place I will be approached with a request for help of some kind.  I always do my best to help, even when we lived overseas and I could barely understand the plea for help and did not know the answer anyway.

To the best of my ability, that is a description of what I look like.  I now attempt to describe what I believe.

I believe that I have a Father in Heaven.  I know that He loves me, that He is aware of me, and that He cares about me and my life.  I know this not because of any grand or exciting experience, but because I have felt it my whole life.  Even when I was confused or unsure about other things, I have never doubted that.  I know that my Father in Heaven has a plan for me, that he knows my strengths and many weaknesses, he sees my struggles and successes.  I know that I am strongest when I rely on my Savior, who is Jesus Christ.  I know that His atoning sacrifice is not only for my sins but also for everything else, all of the little hurts and injuries that are inflicted on me as I venture through life.

I have never felt unloved, or unappreciated, or unvalued by anyone else except for a time, by myself.  When I was a teenager I was very unhappy about the simple fact of being a girl.  It made me angry that my brothers got to be boys and I did not.  I thought it was cruel and unfair.  I was mainly disgruntled at the fact of my gender because of the monthly pains that came with the territory. They horrified me, wounded me, crippled me, made me feel weak and terrible and I hated all of it.

It's hard to explain how I feel about those pains now.  Those pains that were nature's way of making it possible for me to be a mother.  Those pains that were nothing compared to what I would later go through, three times - and a fourth, in a different way, in order to have my babies.  Those pains seemed so simple, so easy to bear when confronted with the more extreme pain of childbirth.  In looking back it all blurs together into a beautiful memory because of what those pains gave me.  I look back even further and recall those teenage days now and I wonder at the blindness of my eyes.  I am filled with gratitude for my mother and father who helped me to realize what an amazing thing it is to be a woman.

I have never had to carry the weight of being unable to have children.  I don't know the sorrow of wanting, the despair of hoping, or the pain of waiting.  But my Savior, your Savior, our Savior - he does.  He knows that pain, as he knows all pain and suffering, and better yet he knows how to heal it.

I reiterate: when I was young and felt upset about being a woman, those feelings were self inflicted.  They were brought on by a lack of understanding about what potential, what power a woman truly has.  My heart aches for the women in my church who continue to have a different experience than mine, and I hope and pray with all my might that they will somehow, in some way, be able to feel their Savior's love for them.  In the meantime, as I've said before, I hope that you know that I love you.

Now that I am more grown up, and probably almost an adult, I am grateful that I have always been treated respectfully and as a person with value within the church.  If you want to read the article by Elder Ballard that I refer to, it will be available online next month.  I will post a link for it then.

photo courtesy of Everyday Adventures Photography

14 comments:

  1. Feeling pain is unknown to many of the happy people in this world. But when we get to the next life, the pain we have endured here will be returned to us in a new light. We will be stronger and happier than ever. I hope you enjoy being a mom. Your girls are beautiful.

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  2. You have a helpful, friendly, gorgeous appearance. I love that picture of your beautiful girls.

    Thank you for sharing, Amy. This is a post that I will reread on the days when I need your strength.

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  3. Thank you for sharing yourself! - Carol Thomas

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  4. you are wonderful amy i love you - susan takacs

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  5. Thank you for sharing Amy! - nicky n

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  6. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing! I disagree with your conclusions, but not with your feelings. - peter

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  7. Yup, yup, and yup. - Eulail

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  8. Thanks for sharing your deep, personal thoughts. You are an amazing woman! - Laura Lee

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  9. Loved it.... I devour the Ensign too. When me or my sisters are having a hard time I always suggest (or have me) an Ensign Bath.....where I take a bath and just sit and read the Ensign. It cures everything.....well not cancer, but almost - Melissa D

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    1. what a good idea...an Ensign bath! I will have to try that. I always feel better reading General Conferences. - Sarah R

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    2. All us Degn sisters have water-logged Ensigns! - Melissa

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  10. Can you share a link to the amazing photographer.

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  11. Ill bet my oldest brother, benjamin homer, doesnt half like this bouquet.

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