Tag Archives: sisterhood

Courage, Dear Heart

The recent carnage the well-publicised disciplinary councils have wreaked among women I love and admire saddens, scares and angers me. Some of my closest friends have been afraid to be open and vulnerable with friends they’ve had for years, with women they’ve served with, even with trusted and familiar blogs.  I don’t know much detail about the OW movement and recent events, but I have many dear friends who have struggled with issues this month has dredged up for them – not even touching the ordination topic or discipline measures – such as the repercussions of having bad fathers, criticism from others within the gospel, poor priesthood leadership in individual lives, unrepentant family members, and the ebb and flow of their own faith through crisis, abundance and drought. I know many women who don’t care in the least about the OW-media circus, because they’re literally trying to find money to feed their children, deal with a son’s exposure to porn, wrap their panicked thoughts around upcoming surgery, forgive those who have grievously sinned against them, adjust to their mother being in hospice, and/or because they believe otherwise to the loud. They now feel as if their situation, their feelings and thoughts are not as important – or as worth caring about – as the issues being discussed elsewhere. They don’t care about the latest news, but are scared to say so. So they say nothing, and bleed in the dark. Continue reading

Mommy and E

Stand as Witnesses

Orlando is a great vacation destination, but its location at the lower east corner of the United States makes it difficult for the majority of my family and friends who live in the northwest U.S. and Canada to pop over for a quick visit.  My nearest and dearest knew about the difficult life of my son, Ethan, and although they knew and loved him from afar, very few had stepped inside my home.  In the nearly 10 years that we have lived in Orlando, my family has come to visit, but very few of my close friends.  In early 2013, all of that changed.  In January, to my delight, Justine and her family came to Orlando for her daughter’s 12th birthday.  We spent some time together at the temple, went to church, and had dinner in our home while they were here.  They stood at Ethan’s bedside, murmured loving phrases to him, and held his hand.

Andrea and Justine

Then in May, Julie came to visit on her way to Cuba via Miami.  She had known him in Sacramento when we lived there, but marveled at how he’d grown since she saw him last.

Andrea and Julie

A few weeks later, the delightfully saucy Kel messaged me and asked if she could spend a few days with us while on her whirlwind trip through the U.S. from Australia.  She brought the little boys gifts of boomerangs and Tim Tams and a kangaroo pelt for Ethan because he loved soft, fluffy things to touch.  Later, she told me this about meeting Ethan:

“I remember walking into his room behind you, checking out the equipment, and as I turned I saw your face as you straightened. I had yet to see you mother, to see you with your kids, and your face in that moment was so soft and fiery and devoted it choked me up. It was a moment of truth, and I realised again that just being in your house, being in Ethan’s room, was a gift, a vulnerability, and I loved you for it and felt honoured.

‘Hey, Ethan,’ you said, “this is my friend Kellie, she wants to meet you.’

My god, did I.”

Andrea and Kel 3

Heather was also able to make it down from South Carolina during Kel’s stay, and showered us with gifts and lively conversation.  I realized after they left that three of my beloved Segullah friends had met my son for the first time.

Andrea and Heather B

Later that year, as Ethan’s health began to decline, Heather and Nate, Brittney and Andy, and Aaron and Stina all were in Orlando and all visited my home.  These were dear friends, some of whom I had known since college, who stood at Ethan’s bedside, stroked his soft hair, held his hand, and kissed his cheek as he neared his last days on earth.

Andrea and Heather

Brit and Andy

Aaron and Stina

Mosiah 18:8 – 9 counsels us to “…bear one another’s burdens that they may be light…mourn with those that mourn…comfort those that stand in need of comfort… and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…”  It is not uncommon to feel helpless in the face of another person’s tragedy.  Death, divorce, disability – these things and more leave us groping for the right thing to say or do.  Our case was no exception.  Ethan’s disabilities were profound and his health was very fragile, and although my friends and ward members were willing, only a person with specialized training or a nursing degree could give me hands-on help with his day-to-day needs.  What meant more to me during that time in Ethan’s life were the people who came into my home, stood by his bedside, stroked his hair, held his hand, and bore witness to the life that he and our family lived.

Not all problems can be solved.  Not all hurts can be healed.  Not all losses can be restored.  Sometimes it is enough to stand as a witness.

Friendly Fire

The author of today’s guest post has asked to remain anonymous.

Friendly fire: inadvertent firing towards one’s own or otherwise friendly forces.

The words were said so quickly and with such ease I was shocked. We quietly went about our work; busy with our hands in service for our children.  A young woman, with preschoolers, asked me about my work and told me she was, “fascinated by working women.”  I replied, “It’s really hard.  If you can stay home with your children do that. Go to school or learn a trade and go back to work later if you need to or want to.”  Then another young woman joined the conversation, while still busily working, and said, “Besides, the children really suffer.”  She immediately realized what she had said with little thought to the company she was in.  We made eye contact and then went back to our work.  I don’t remember where the conversation turned next; I only know where my heart has turned again and again since then; the “friendly fire” rhetoric against the working mom leveled by those who should be friendly forces and who often intend no harm.  This rhetoric knows no individual circumstances and only levels generalized judgment or “friendly fire” causing harm when there is no enemy in sight.

“Besides, the children suffer” were words heaped on the words of a co-worker who, just weeks before, on my first day back at work said, in reference to his wife’s ability to stay home with their child, “You can really tell the difference between the children of working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.”  I was stunned at his rudeness and the inappropriateness of his comment. Continue reading

Why I Love Relief Society

IMG_1992Olea has decided 2013 is a year of discovery, both of the world around her (she is currently living in the south of France, her first time overseas) and the potential within her. She would describe herself as open-hearted and optimistic (she loves words starting with an o), and her best friend tried to convince her to use the word “wise”, but clearly that didn’t work.

I have always felt a special connection to the sisters in my life. I loved the Young Women’s program, and often it was the only place in my life that I felt I belonged. When I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne, at the end of high school, to join my family who’d been there all year, I was looking forward to joining Relief Society. I had visited during holidays, and spent time with the young women, but when I went to Relief Society, I felt accepted and wanted in a deeper way than I ever had before. In classes, I was encouraged to share my experiences and testimony, and my needs and opinions were considered when planning activities, though I was only 18 and new to the ward. Our ward was very small when I first arrived – it had just been split, and wasn’t much bigger than a branch – and over the course of 6 years, we moved to a new building (from our rented hall-plus-a-few-classrooms) and now we are worried around Stake Conference times in case of more splits.

My first activity, as part of the new Enrichment focus that encouraged small groups organised by sisters, was a book club. We met monthly in a sister’s home and read, among others, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Don Quixote, something by Charles Dickens that I have since removed from my memory, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Lovely Bones and My Sister’s Keeper. We discussed authors’ intentions, favourite characters and unexpected plot twists. We discussed our families and friends and personal experiences, we shared philosophical views and argued about ideas, sometimes even relating to the book we’d read, often until (and occasionally after) midnight. Continue reading