Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sorting out the questions

In keeping with my regular way of doing things, it has been another two months since my last post. I have been behind in my blog reading as well. This morning I took some time to read some blogs I haven't read for a while. After reading, my head was spinning and I ended up taking time to write in my journal, and have decided to post the journal entry. I have a little trepidation in doing so because of it being personal, but then, I guess, these blogs always are. I have to post this quote by Susan W. Tanner first before the journal entry, as I refer to it in my writing.

"I remember a simple sampler that I cross-stitched as a young Primary girl. It said, 'I will bring the light of the gospel into my home.' I wondered, 'What is that light?' Jesus Christ Himself explained it best when He was teaching the Nephites. He said, 'Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world.' Then he explained, 'I am the light which ye shall hold up---that which ye have seen me do' (3 Nephi 18:24).
What had the Nephites seen Him do, and could I possibly do those things in my home? When the people desired for Him to tarry with them a little longer, He had compassion upon them and lingered with them. Then He healed them, prayed with them, taught them, wept with them, blessed their little children one by one, fed them, and administered and shared the sacrament that they might covenant to always remember Him. His ministry among them was about teaching and caring for each individual, and about completing the work His Father had commanded Him to do. There was no thought for Himself. As I learned this, there began for me a lifelong quest to bring His light into my home through selfless, Christlike acts.
This is not an easy task. Good home life often goes unrecognized. It might be easier to 'arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations (D&C 115:5) rather than that your light may be a standard for your own families. Sometimes others don't see us doing good, sharing our light in our individual homes. It is basic human nature to desire and seek praise and attention. Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi to do the good works of their forefathers for whom they were named, 'that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven' (Helaman 5:8). Good works should not be done for the purpose of receiving recognition. ...
In these preparatory years, you young women spend much of your time in schools or jobs where you receive accolades, honors, awards, ribbons, or trophies. When you move from that stage to young motherhood, there is a dramatic drop-off in outside commendation. Yet in no other capacity is there more opportunity to serve selflessly as Christ would do by taking care of hundreds of daily physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. You will bring the light of the gospel into your homes---not to be seen of others, but to build others---men and women of strength and light."

---Sister Susan W. Tanner, "I Am the Light Which Ye Shall Hold Up," April 2006 General Conference

(This was given in the General YW Meeting from last conference, but I found it insightful nonetheless.)

Now for the journal entry of today.

Just imagine. You are running a river in a kayak and you can hear the approaching thunder of a waterfall. The sound gets louder and louder, the spray covers your face and body, your heart is pounding, matching the intensity, and then...plunge. I asked Scott the other day if he ever feels like we're right at that point where we are just about to plunge. A world of newness awaits us and so much of the unknown. He said that he feels that, too. I was just reading some blogs online, and suddenly have a prominent question floating around in my mind. I read something someone wrote where she was discussing feminism vs. femininity. I really appreciated what she had to say. She talked about how she she'd spent a weekend with family without her husband, and this gave her the opportunity to watch her siblings and their relationships with their spouses. She talks specifically about how she felt like she needed to change her viewpoint. She was watching her sister-in-law gladly making a sandwich for her brother, and then make him another when he wanted it, and then rubbing his back after that -- all just for his comfort. She essentially asked the question: What's so wrong with serving your husband, and discussed that femininity was what made women divine. One of the comments I read in response to her post also posed a good question/food for thought for me, though. Becca's best friend, Rachel, wrote something to the effect of how it was freaky to her, though, when she had those moments where she realized that everything she did was to fulfill others' needs (feeding, burping, sexing, diapering, etc.) -- and the realization of no nurturing going to self. I guess this really resonated with me because I've wondered what my contribution will be. At the same time, I read of other women (Rachel & her sister) who both have businesses they've started and are creating their own personal projects to be engaged in. I had this frightening realization that I don't even know what I would do for a project for me, for recognition, purpose, or sense of self worth/developing talents if I wanted to. That, combined with the fact that I'm just about to give birth to two babies that will require pure selflessness from me, kind of made me nervous and I'm feeling slightly conflicted. I don't know if everyone wonders what their contribution will be, how they will leave their footprint, so to speak, or how they will better the world, but I have, and I have a desire to make a difference. BUT -- I realize that I'm so used to associating accomplishment and achievement with recognized accolades and awards and schooling and "official applause," so to speak. I'm not sure that that's necessarily what it is --- although those are definitely accomplishments -- and noteworthy to be sure. I'm just conflicted because I absolutely believe - and always have - about womanhood and femininity being divine. I believe I have heard it said that motherhood comes closest to the calling of the Savior, but I can't remember where. I really resonate with what Susan Tanner said as she essentially makes that same connection in the quote I wrote in a few pages ago. I believe there is a reason why the First Presidency referred to motherhood as the highest, holiest calling to be assumed by mankind. I believe that motherhood - and I want to expand that to nurturing (whether that be to spouse, children, friends, etc.) - is the essence of who we are as women, and what could be more ennobling than the overarching principle of selflessness and love (charity, really) associated with that call? We just don't receive accolades and praise, necessarily, for that work - and it IS work, perhaps the hardest kind at times. Whether we have children or not, women are born mothers and nurturers. So, I'm not apologizing - AT ALL - for the role of women as nurturers and mothers by nature. I rejoice in that. But I have this lingering fear at times that seems contradictory of that where I wonder what my contribution will be to the world, how will I be significant, how could/can I possibly make a difference, and when? I have this fear that I don't really have antyhing that great to offer or be remembered by. I have a fear in not really knowing even what I'm doing now to nurture my own talents or personal worth - and that bothers me, and I guess I'm afraid that's just going to become even more buried when all I do every day is take care of my babies and make a home - which, by the way, are two things that I look forward to and enjoy. I enjoy the home-making types of things: cooking, gardening, cleaning, making things or rearranging or decorating to make things cozy. I enjoy trying to create a place that people want to come to - where it's warm and bright and smells good and where there is love. In the end, to me, it is the manifestation of love, and creating a peace and safe haven. But I wonder about this sense of personal worth and growth, and about nurturing everyone else, but doing nothing to encourage my own growth. Could nurturing others also bring a sense of self-nourishment? I think it could, because I've felt that a lot in my life. I feel joy when I take care of, and bring peace to, others. But, I'm not referring to the "What's in it for me?" attitude, just that I don't want my whole identity/worth to be based on everyone else - and do nothing to encourage my own development and sense of accomplishment. Does that make sense? ...I don't really know how to resolve this issue or find a balance. Even though I wonder what contribution I could make, I also really agree with this quote from Middlemarch, in reference to one of the characters:

"Her full nature...spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs" (George Eliot, Middlemarch).

As I think on my life, the most influential experiences and people that I treasure most are those that I've spent the most time with, those I have served and been served by -- and not so much by those who have made a huge contribution to the whole world. My greatest sphere of influence for my life has been rather intimate in comparison, and the good that has come from those loving relationships and acts of service has been incalculable. So -- I guess you try to strike a balance between the two??? AND, in the meantime, enjoy the ride? It's a ride I'm ready and willing to take.

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