by Robyn

Book Review: The Sacred Gift of Childbirth

May 11, 2016 in Book, Book reviews, Doulas, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Pregnancy, Preparation, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

The Gift of Giving Life has a friend!

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth

It can be lonely when you are the only LDS birth book on the block so it is nice when a new friend moves in right? We think so.  It is wonderful that more voices are testifying to the sacred nature of the childbearing process. So when Marie-Ange Bigelow asked us to review her book we jumped at the opportunity.

If you have read our book, you may be wondering how The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby is different or the same as The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth.

So first, what do we have in common?

Both books testify of the divinity of the childbearing process and desire to empower women and families with knowledge to make informed decisions regarding the birth of their children. Both utilize scriptures and quotes from apostles and prophets and current research. They each teach the importance of trusting God in the process and using personal study and revelation to guide decisions. And we both recognize what a “gift” childbirth is!

What is different about it?

Author

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth (SGCB) is authored by one person whereas The Gift of Giving Life (TGOGL) is authored by five mothers in addition to dozens of voices highlighted in different birth stories and essays.

Length

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth is shorter, 167 pages to TGOGL’s 544 pages.  This may be less intimidating to refer to someone than a book that is over 500 pages. (But the variety of stories and essays do make TGOGL very readable. 😉

Content

Charts & Worksheets

In The Sacred Gift of Childbirth, most of the chapters are followed by questions to ponder about the material presented. In addition, helpful charts are included to weigh the pros and cons and benefits and risks of common choices a couple may be faced with.  There is even a “Birth Preferences Quiz” included that can help a woman decide what kind of birth she desires.

Research & Statistics

Both books have up to date research and information regarding choices in childbirth.  The statistics included in SGCB are more recent and in more abundance than TGOGL.  TGOGL was not necessarily centered around providing recent research but around re-establishing the divine nature of pregnancy and birth.  For this reason TGOGL includes a larger variety of birth stories, quotes and scriptures.  The way I would describe SGCB is that it is more research centered than TGOGL is.  That makes it a nice companion to TGOGL.  It’s a little more of how to navigate the conflicting information a woman might hear about childbirth. It’s like having a quick reference guide packed with helpful research, charts, and worksheets but from an LDS perspective.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Couples simply cannot make wise birth choices without understanding the physical, physiological, and spiritual aspects of birth” (4).

“There is no other time than procreation when a couple can come so close to being Godlike.” (96)

“When we partner with our Heavenly Father and put our faith in Him, we don’t have to wonder if things could have gone differently” (101).

My favorite part of the book is the discussion of how marriage can be strengthened through the physiological process of birth put in place by God and manifested in the release of certain hormones throughout the process.  This not only takes place for the mother but for the father as well, “A father’s oxytocin levels will rise during the birth of his child, which will innately encourage him to bond with his child. Through bonding, a hormone called vasopressin will also be produced. Vasopressin helps a male feel dedicated to his spouse and child and brings out a man’s protective role. While the more well-known hormone of testosterone contributes to a male’s libido, vasopressin tempers a man’s sex drive and encourages monogamy” (111).

A few more thoughts:

This book does have a strong message about natural childbirth and its benefits.  This may not be the goal of every woman reading this book or possible for every woman but the author explains, “When we partner with our Heavenly Father and put our faith in Him, we don’t have to wonder if things could have gone differently. . . When you plan for a natural birth, do everything you can to accomplish that goal, and make your decisions with the Lord; you can be assured that you will always end up with the best-case scenario for your particular birth.  Most of the time, things will progress smoothly and go well. If they don’t, you will know that you did everything you could” (101).

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth will increase your faith in God’s love for us and His ability to magnify us through the process of establishing our families.  It will arm you with the spiritual and scientific power to make the right decisions for your family regarding childbirth.

So if you are wondering where you can buy this book, it can be found on Amazon.  The hardcopy retails for $12.99 while the kindle version is $5.99. Happy reading!

by Lani

Conceiving Courage

March 29, 2016 in Adversity, Book, Conception, Depression, Events, Faith, Family size, Fear, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Personal Revelation, Pregnancy by Lani

 

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. -Joshua 1:9

Almost three years ago, Robyn and I hosted a Gift of Giving Life party at my parents’ home in Utah County. It was very well attended, and I was privileged to meet many beautiful women who have since become my friends in addition to reconnecting with other women who were already dear to me.

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn's sister

Robyn, Lani, and Robyn’s sister

At the time I was busy mothering my four children, my youngest being just over 2 and my oldest 9 years old. The previous summer and fall (2012) had been harrowing for me as I battled for my life with severe anxiety and depression. Finally having regained joy and peace and a solid foundation, naturally I was not inclined to do anything to jeopardize the calm I had so painfully won. And yet… deep down inside my heart I felt that there was at least one child who was still hoping to join my family. Meanwhile, my husband had very strong feelings against having any more children. And most of the time I was inclined to think he was right. I didn’t think I could do it.

As part of the event, we broke into two groups to discuss and share spiritual experiences related to pregnancy, birth, and mothering. Among the women in the group I joined were several seasoned mothers of very large families. I couldn’t believe my ears when they talked about how much “easier” it got as their families grew (in years and number). “The older kids are so helpful!” they shared.

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A friend of mine (who also had four young children at the time) and I were aghast as we shared our fears that we couldn’t possibly handle any more children, despite feeling that our families weren’t complete. These mothers assuaged our concerns, saying, “Right now you are in the hardest part! With lots of little kids and none old enough to help out. It gets easier!” Even so, my friend and I were still hesitant.

My hesitation eventually gave way to courage, however, and over the course of the following year I attempted weaning off my anti-depressant in order to prepare my body for another pregnancy. When my weaning attempt turned into an even more severe and prolonged battle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts (summer and fall of 2014), my intention of bearing any more children seemed impossible to retain. My husband and I just didn’t think my mind/body/spirit could handle it. So we did what we could to prevent pregnancy. In our then-thirteen years of marriage we had never had an unplanned pregnancy. And our prevention methods continued to work well for us… for most of a year.

Then, in May of 2015, I stared down at a positive pregnancy test after my morning meditation. Immediately I was overcome by so many emotions. I did not see that coming. It was not planned or expected or convenient. But nevertheless it was happening. Friends and family were also surprised but full of support and faith. Many separately shared their strong feelings that all would be well and that this baby would be a beautiful healing blessing to me and my family. I hoped they were right and courageously moved toward my baby’s birth.

It has now been almost a year since I stared at that surprisingly positive pregnancy test. My oldest daughter is nearly a teenager now. The other kids are 10, 7, and 5. And our sweet Baby Hope is 3 months old. Out of the most difficult and darkest years of my life emerged the brightest and most beautiful.

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.

(Hymn #19)

Hope smiling brightly

I have been wanting to shout to the world, “They were right! They were all so right!” The seasoned mothers-of-many at the Gift of Giving Life party I hosted three years ago were right! Having a baby when you have several older kids to help is amazing. It is so much easier. And my friends and family who encouraged me throughout my pregnancy were right. This baby has been one of the greatest healing gifts of my life.

I am so happy. Life is so good.

good courage

If you are interested in hosting a Gift of Giving Life party, you can apply to be a hostess. A GOGL party is a gathering designed to get women (and men when appropriate) together in person to share how God’s hand has worked in their lives (in the area of giving life). It is an opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally to hear spiritual birth-related stories. It is also a great way to spread the word about our book.

We offer hostesses books at wholesale. You can pass on the savings or use profit to cover party costs. We have held many of these gatherings in different states with amazing results (friendships, fun, spiritual growth).

If you would like to apply to be a hostess please email us at thegiftofgivinglife@gmail.com for more information.

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by Robyn

The Path of a Modern Mormon Midwife

June 16, 2015 in Angels, Book, Education, Faith, Fear, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

An Interview With Valerie Hall, LM, CPM

So what is it like to be a midwife? Valerie Hall LM, CPM, graciously agreed amidst her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about her work as a midwife.  I have known Valerie since she began her journey by becoming a childbirth educator.  She was also present at the birth of my sixth child.  I also loved taking part in the Midwife Assistant classes she offered.   My favorite part of the class was the beginning when she would ask the “hard questions,” meaning, the thought-provoking ones that cause you to search your soul a little bit. While I am not ready to begin as a student midwife yet I value the training and experiences I had in her class.  It allowed me to peek into the world of a midwife and evaluate the blessings and sacrifices associated with it.  I hope that other such classes will be offered for other women trying to decide upon the path of midwifery. Valerie has a website for her practice, Generations Homebirth, and she also has a facebook page.   –Robyn

RobynBirth-372

photo by Cali Stoddard

Tell us a little about how you were guided to become a midwife.

I believe my first step toward midwifery was the firm conviction I had even before I was married that it was essential for me to give birth without medications. I’m not sure why that was planted in my heart, but it was very clear. Our first baby was born in a California hospital without medications but certainly not without unwelcome interference. It was a long time before I processed the pain of that experience, but it made an activist out of me. “Activist” is the word my Dad used to describe me because it was nicer than “fanatic”.

Five more babies came along, all born in hospitals and all without medications. My activism went dormant when it became clear that most people just didn’t want to hear about it. When our 4th child and 1st daughter was expecting her first baby, she called to say that she wanted a natural birth and asked about what classes were available. From there it was a slippery slope for my husband Steve and me. We became Bradley Method teachers, then I started attending births as doula and took the DONA training.

My very first job turned out to be a precipitate birth where I beat the paramedics by about 7 minutes and the baby did not breathe for what seemed like forever. This was definitely beyond my training level! All turned out well. In the first year of doula work I caught the baby 3 times and I promise it was never my fault. At that point Steve started urging me to look into Midwifery school.

I started looking but quickly realized that at 51 years old I was way too old to start this career. But Heavenly Father would not take NO for an answer and I felt actually shoved into midwifery. Doors opened. Money appeared (usually at the last moment). Previously planned doors closed. Things fell into place. I kicked and cried and fretted and worried but always sought the next little patch of light which never failed to appear just as I was about to give up.

 

What is a typical day or week for you as a midwife?

I do all my care in my clients’ homes except for a few who come from a distance and choose to meet me at my house. So a typical week looks like this:

Monday: Office work. This never, ever ends. It’s like dishes or laundry. You can’t catch up. I’m not good at sitting in front of a desk for hours on end so I’ve learned strategies for survival, like taking a break and doing crazy dances with my grandchildren who live with me.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Usually at least 2 of these days are spent traveling to clients’ homes. My assistant Angela Geurts does all my scheduling for me, bless her. So on one day I go north to the Rexburg area and on one day I go south as far as Blackfoot or Pocatello. If I can’t get all the visits in, then I do a 3rd day. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Midwives College of Utah and of the Idaho Midwifery Council (I’m giving that up soon) and on the Idaho Board of Midwifery. So there are often online or phone meetings for those organizations and also projects that I have to do for them. I try to fit those in on the days when I don’t have too many visits. Sometimes I’m gone from 8 am to 6 or 7 pm, although that usually doesn’t happen more than once per week. I schedule a full hour for each visit plus driving time. Sometimes a student travels with me.

Fridays: In the morning one of my students comes for a few hours to help with things like organizing the office (a spare bedroom in our home), making up birth kits, scanning and entering documents, sterilizing instruments, restocking my bags, etc. Sometimes I can do home chores while they’re doing this but I usually need to be close at hand to answer questions.

Of course, if someone has a baby we have to revise the schedule unless the whole thing takes place at night. Angela has a big job!

 

What led you to begin offering assistant midwife classes?

I had been thinking of offering Midwife Assistant classes for a long time. When I first went out into solo practice I didn’t think I was likely to get students who wanted to get their clinical credits with me because I don’t do a high volume of births (about 25-30 per year) so it would be quite slow. I needed trained assistants. I realized that there are many women who are not ready to jump into midwifery but who would like a gentle introduction. Also, there’s a great need to educate women so there will be someone to help at births in case of emergency. That’s something I feel very strongly about. Birth knowledge is not something that should be kept as a professional secret available only to the few. It belongs to all women. Every ward should have someone who is at least somewhat prepared to help in cases where professional help is not available. Of all the emergency scenarios people talk about, emergency childbirth is the one you’re most likely to encounter in your life. It happens every day.

As it turned out, I do have students so my need for assistants is much less than I had expected. But I’m going to keep offering the classes as long as there’s any interest because it’s a good introduction to midwifery. There are now three licensed midwives in my area and I think there might be demand for good trained assistants.

 

What advice would you give someone who is considering whether or not to begin training to be a midwife?

I don’t have a lot of advice for people considering midwifery training. Just like any other major life decision, it needs to be searched out diligently and then prayed about. I do believe that it will soon become important to attend an accredited school. There is no royal road or shortcut to competence in midwifery. It’s a very responsible job and can be hard on a family if not approached with care. It’s worth taking your time and really investigating before jumping in. The rewards are great but so are the sacrifices. It’s worth investing in a quality education. “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every byway, till you find your dream”. If it’s the path for you, you will come to know that.

 

What is one of the funniest experiences you have had as a midwife?

There are so many good stories! This is why midwives write books. I will too someday. Stories are mostly funny after the fact, and I’m the victim in most of them. Once I was attending a mother for her 3rd baby, and I’d been present as a student for the first two so I knew that this mom always worked hard to get her babies out. This time she was birthing on her bed in a suspended squat, supported from behind by her husband. Baby was finally almost crowning after a real effort at pushing. In the intensity of the moment I forgot the fact that her water hadn’t broken yet. I was practically lying across the bed with my hands outstretched and my face right in the path. Sure enough, the water broke and caught me full in the face, completely drenching my hair. But Baby was right behind it and I barely had time to run my arm across my face to clear my eyes before I had to catch. Baby needed a bit of stimulation to get started, so there wasn’t time to do anything about cleaning up for quite a while. When I finally had a chance to go into the bathroom and wash, I looked like a creature from the Black Lagoon. Naturally, this was a birth that took place fairly far away from my home and the mom had Rh negative blood type, so I had to take blood samples into the lab before I could go home and shower. I can only hope the lab people were pretty bleary-eyed at 4 am and didn’t think strange things. Angela was my assistant and she’s still laughing about that.

 

What is one of the most spiritual experiences you have had as midwife?

To be a midwife is to be a watcher at the gates of life. Every birth is a spiritual experience. Sometimes I’m very aware of the watchers from the other side of the veil. One of the richest experiences was the birth of one of my grandsons. My daughter-in-law was laboring well and there was deep peace in the room. As the birth drew near I became aware that the room was full of women. I couldn’t quite see them but I knew who some of them were. My Great-Aunt Dade who delivered many babies as a rural nurse, my Great-great-great grandmother Morilla Spink Bates who was a pioneer midwife, my own grandmothers, and other ancestors. I also recognized the presence of many whose names I did not know; they were ancestors of my daughter-in-law. I did not say anything but knew those women were there to lend support and to usher my grandson into his mortal experience.

 

Tell us more about the projects you are working on.

I’m currently working on several projects for the MCU board and the Board of Midwifery. At the same time I’m working on a book on Emergency Childbirth. It’s meant to be an updated manual like the old classic by Dr. Gregory White. But I’m also considering including it as a chapter in a longer work on preparedness for women and babies. I really need an illustrator! I’m also considering how I can complete my Bachelors degree in midwifery (I graduated with an AS from MCU). And of course I want to update my files so that all my notes are in electronic form and well-indexed so that I can find what I need easily.

Has working in midwifery affected your testimony?  How does your work as a midwife combine with your testimony?

 

My testimony of the Gospel and of my Savior’s grace has been greatly strengthened by my practice of midwifery. I know for certain that my strength is weakness and all power comes from Him. His plan is perfect, though we are not. I can testify that He lives, that He leads us along and knows of our needs and answers our prayers.

One of the great problems for midwives is fear. I think every midwifery student encounters this. There are so many things to be afraid of, but fear and faith cannot exist in the same person at the same time. Therefore faith must prevail. That which you feed is that which grows. I have learned to feed my faith, not my fears, and I have learned to rely on the strength of the Lord instead of my own. I must not carry fear or resentment or pride into the room where a birth is occurring. Since I never know the day nor the hour when I will be attending a birth, I must keep my repentance current.

I was given a powerful gift 38 years ago on the day I received my endowment for the first time. I believe that it was in some way tied to my mission among women. For some reason, the Lord saw fit to roll back the veil and let me truly understand the relationship of men and women on this earth and in the eternities. In one instant I saw the glory and nobility and unity of the sexes. Then it closed down and I could never explain it in words to myself or anyone else. But I had seen and understood for that one second, and in all the years since I have never had any troubles or doubts about the place of women in the Lord’s plan. It is glorious. In the World we have tribulation and uncertainty and sometimes anger or resentment about these things. But in the Lord we have peace everlasting. It is my testimony that we can choose where we will live, in Babylon or in Zion. We can choose whom we accept as authorities, the philosophies of men or the messengers from our Heavenly parents. You may have different questions or struggles than mine, but the source of light is the same for all of us. Let there be Light in your life.

 

by Lani

Where the Wild Things Are

January 19, 2015 in Angels, Atonement, Holy Ghost, Intuition, Jesus Christ, Lani, Personal Revelation, Power of Words, Traditions, Zion by Lani

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? -Matthew 5:13

I was looking in the topical guide of the scriptures under “witness” this morning. As my eyes wandered over the page, they fell on the entry for “witch, witchcraft.” The first scripture under that heading is Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” It’s no question that the Law of Moses was intense, and I suppose this statement about witches shouldn’t have surprised me, but still I couldn’t help wincing as I read it. It took me instantly back to my childhood visit to the Salem Witch Museum and my adolescent introduction to Monty Python’s witch scene. How many innocent women have been killed through the ages because they have been labeled as witches? I was relieved to learn that Joseph Smith changed this passage in his translation of Exodus: “The JST refers not to a ‘witch,’ but to a ‘murderer’—’Thou shalt not suffer a murderer to live'” (Source).

Regardless of whether the original text referred to witches or murderers, it’s still clear in the Bible that witchcraft wasn’t kosher. What did the word “witch” mean to the Israelites? According to this commentary: “In every form of witchcraft there is an appeal to a power not acting in subordination to the divine law. From all such notions and tendencies true worship is designed to deliver us.” I think the key in that passage is “an appeal to a power not acting in subordination to the divine law.” True worship is designed to deliver us from anything that is outside of at-one-ment with God. Witchcraft, in that context, would be a form of false worship, one that draws us outside the realm of at-one-ment with God.

Personally, I don’t think God wants any of us labeling each other as witches. But I do think God wants us to draw near unto Him, and at times we need to discern whether a particular practice or person is going to help us at-one with God or take us further away from God. Discernment, not judgment. So many have been called witches or heretics simply because their actions or ideas were different. Wild people can actually be some of the grooviest in God’s eyes. I think we can use the spirit of discernment to determine what type of “wild thing” we’re dealing with.

Wild Thing #1

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This picture cracks me up. I can’t help myself. It comes from the New Testament Stories picture book. This is a wild man. Though the picture makes me laugh, his actual story is no laughing matter. He lived in a cemetery by the Sea of Galilee in mountains and caves, cried all the time, and would cut himself with stones. The people tried to restrain him with chains, but he would just break the chains. It turns out there were thousands of unclean spirits possessing his body, urging him to do wild things. After Jesus Christ cast the spirits out of the man’s body, he was in his “right mind” and wanted to follow Christ (see Mark 5).

Some wild people are much like this man. They do wild things because unclean or evil spirits are in possession of their bodies. There is a distinction between being possessed of evil spirits and being, in fact, evil. This was a good man. We don’t know why the evil spirits flooded his body. Mary called Magdalene (“tower of strength”) had seven devils cast out of her. Personally, I suspect that many who are afflicted with unclean or evil spirits are highly sensitive spiritually but not yet aware of their own power to protect themselves. Unclean spirits, seeking relief from their own torments, hang around these sensitive individuals because of their openness, spiritual awareness, and healing potential. This would include some who experience what the world calls “mental illness.”

I don’t have time to go into this subject further, but I will say that throughout Christ’s ministry he spent a lot of time casting spirits out of good people. Look past behavior and into people’s hearts. The Holy Ghost can guide us to know how to help them. Generally, chains are a bad idea, I think.

Wild Thing #2

So this guy named Korihor started preaching. What he said was kind of wild, very unconventional, anti-establishment stuff. Korihor wanted the people to leave behind their religious beliefs and practices which he called “foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads” (Alma 30). On the surface, his words seemed to be about empowerment and freedom, so lots of people liked what he had to say. Elder Faust has said, “Satan is the world’s master in the use of flattery, and he knows the great power of speech, a power his servants often employ” (Source).

korihor

This picture cracks me up too (source).

Using the spirit of discernment, Giddonah (the high priest) saw the hardness of Korihor’s heart, refused to contend with him, and sent him to Alma. After conversing with Alma and begging for a sign, Korihor was struck dumb. In his shock and despair, Korihor explained (in writing) that he had been deceived by a devil disguised as an angel of light (vs. 53). Because of the “angel’s” words, Korihor believed that he was doing the right thing, that he was “reclaiming the people” who had “gone astray.” Deep down Korihor “always knew that there was a God,” but he allowed himself to be deceived because the words given to him by the angel of darkness were “pleasing unto the carnal mind” a.k.a. ego/natural man.

Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is right and what is wrong. Is a revelation coming from God or is it the whisperings of the devil? Being anti-establishment wasn’t Korihor’s crime. Christ himself was very anti-establishment. Christ was the supreme “wild man.” Rather, Korihor’s downfall was allowing himself to be deceived by pleasing words. If what a “wild person” says sounds empowering but comes from a place of anger and accusation and anti-Christ, the Holy Ghost will guide us to discard their words and pull away from their influence. “The spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29).

Wild Thing #3

Now I’d like to head over and visit Enoch for a bit. God called Enoch to prophesy to the people. At the time, Enoch was overwhelmed, saying, “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” God assured Enoch, saying, “Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance” (Moses 6). This seems to be a pattern with God. He likes to pick the weathered and lowly as spokespeople.

So Enoch went among the people, stood up on high places, and spoke (loudly) the words that God gave to him. In response the people said:

“There is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.”

The people were deeply offended by Enoch’s words.  Unlike Korihor’s, Enoch’s words were not “pleasing unto the carnal mind.” Sometimes wild people say things that make us uncomfortable. What Enoch said was true, but it made the people very uncomfortable.

If someone’s words make us uncomfortable, the answer is not to automatically discard those words but rather to dive into ourselves and determine why those words are making us uncomfortable. Are the words attempting to pull us out of our comfort zones into an opportunity for growth? God delights in provoking us to leave behind comfort when it is holding us back from our potential. We can’t always rely on our comfort level as a means of discerning Truth. Follow the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (Galations 5:22-23).

Enoch was a wild man, but he was a wild man of God. Because some had courage to believe Enoch’s uncomfortable words and be taught by him, Zion was built!

city-of-zion-taken-up-82612-wallpaper

So, in summary, not all wild people are “witches” or “heretics.” Wild people can actually be spiritual super stars. If Enoch’s city is any indication, I’d wager that the New Jerusalem will be built by a whole lotta wild things. When we’re faced with a weird new idea, practice, or person, we can use the spirit of discernment to determine whether that person, practice, or perception is going to help us at-one with God or take us further away from God. Zion is built only by those who have learned how to at-one with our Heavenly Parents through at-one-ment with Christ. Doing what’s right is often unconventional. When in Rome, at-one with Christ regardless of what the Romans are doing. If people call you a “witch” because of it, respond, “I’m not a witch, I’m a wild woman!” And take heart that Enoch’s probably virtually/spiritually fist-bumping you.

by Lani

Hearts Turning to the Children

January 13, 2015 in Abortion, Intuition, Lani, Missions, Motherhood, Pain, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Prenatal influences, Traumatic Birth by Lani

And whoso receiveth one such little one in my name receiveth me. -Matthew 18:5

When I attended Felice’s yoga and meditation retreat at the beginning of the month, it was many things I expected it to be, but there were a few things that surprised me. One of those surprises was how many people told me that they had recently discovered a “castaway” in their family. I knew that the ranks of previously-aborted children coming to earth were growing, but I was still unprepared for the outpouring of witnesses I received at the retreat.

When I began my own journey of discovery with my daughter, I had never heard of “castaways.” I didn’t know anyone who talked about them. Finding and meeting pre-birth expert Sarah Hinze in 2010-2012 was surely no coincidence. Sarah has been a sort of lone voice in the wilderness for the past few decades, sharing her growing pool of case histories about previously-aborted children. She herself was highly skeptical at first. A couple of years ago, Sarah handed me a story that had clearly been typed decades ago and said, “I think this was the first abortion story I ever received.” She shook her head, saying, “I couldn’t believe it was true.” So she had put it away in a file, feeling sure it was an anomaly among pre-birth accounts. But then she received others, and that pushed-aside file started to grow.

Part of one of my favorite paintings (Source)

Part of one of my favorite paintings (Source)

As more and more of these brave and valiant spirits try to make their way to earth again, the powers of darkness are heightening their efforts at preventing their entrance. Personally, I believe that many of these spirits are God’s strongest “warriors.” Satan doesn’t want them here, and he certainly doesn’t want people acknowledging their existence. Revelation chapter 12 takes on new meaning as we consider the vast number of previously-aborted spirits seeking entrance into mortality: “And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (vs. 4).

Before I met Sarah, God called me to help rescue these “castaway” children, but it hasn’t been an easy mission call. I was initially a little shell-shocked by the opposition and resistance I encountered from many sides when I joined Sarah in the work of helping these special children tell their stories. So I stepped back a bit from my advocacy efforts.

Since that time, awareness of Sarah’s research has broadened. Though the idea (of aborted souls being given second chances at life) is still far from mainstream, more and more stories are coming out of the woodwork, at least among the people I rub shoulders with. When I think about these “wounded warrior” children, I am grateful for the Spirit of Elijah. The hearts of the fathers and mothers are being turned to the children. As I wrote in our book The Gift of Giving Life:

The Spirit of Elijah will come to all of us.  The tendrils of his spirit reach far and wide—into the hearts of married couples, birth mothers, adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  He calls on the highest and best within each of us to turn and welcome, protect, teach, and nurture the children waiting to be and those already among us.  It may not be easy, but the Lord has promised to help us.

The following is one of the growing number of stories I have received… from a mother whose heart has turned in love to her castaway child:

My first child’s arrival was surrounded with anticipation and joy. I was so thrilled to become a mother, and my husband and I were happy to start our family. We loved our little boy so much, but we quickly discovered that he came to earth with various issues. We wanted to help our son, but struggled to know what to do. He had severe separation anxiety, was only happy in my arms, struggled to bond to his father, and seemed to have “colic” and night terrors. I intuitively knew there was a cause behind it and that he was not just crying for no reason. The list went on and on of things that were “wrong” with his physical body. 
  
We tried many elimination diets, we saw many doctors, even natural healers, but did not find answers. I prayed constantly to understand more, to receive answers, and felt disappointed when I didn’t receive those answers immediately. I tried to have faith that God would give us answers eventually, and tried to be the best mother I could be.

I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and frustration when I couldn’t comfort my child, especially in the night terrors in which my son screamed in terror. At times I felt angry that my poor little boy had to suffer for reasons I didn’t understand. As he grew from a sweet newborn to tenderhearted toddler and fun preschooler, our love for him only increased, but we also felt sorrow that we hadn’t solved all of his problems. 

When my son was four years old, I was praying one morning, and I saw, in my mind, or in a vision, my sweet little boy, in the womb of another woman. I felt the pain, the fear, the emotional distress he was in as he was aborted. Amazed, saddened, and yet grateful to have this knowledge, I asked God, “Is there anything else I need to know about this?” And again in my mind, I saw that the woman who had aborted him was my sister, much older than me, who had been raped in college. In my mind, I could feel the fear and emotional pain of both my son and my sister. I cried for both of them. 

Later that day I felt confirmation that what I had learned about my son being a “castaway” was true. As my husband and I discussed it, we suddenly understood why our baby had been scared of strangers, especially strange men, and feared separation from me, his mother. Puzzle pieces seemed to come together as our hearts were given this knowledge. We felt a new level of gratitude to have our little boy be a part of our family and a new responsibility as we begin this journey of healing. 

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by Lani

God Keeps His Promises, part 2

October 15, 2014 in Adversity, Depression, Fear, Lani, Personal Revelation, Priesthood blessings, Waiting by Lani

Back in March I wrote a post called “God Keeps His Promises.” Feel free to click over and read it. The main part I want to draw your attention to is this:

I wondered, “Will I need to take this medicine for the rest of my life?” . . .

In another priesthood blessing, God answered my question: “You will be able to be happy without medication.” He didn’t tell me how long it would take, but I was satisfied with just knowing that someday I’d get there. And so I went on, taking my medication, feeling grateful for my rescue from the darkness. . . .

About a year ago, I started cutting back on my dose, little by little, very slowly, adding in supplements recommended by readers and friends to ease the withdrawal. I took a dose last Tuesday, but when I was due for another dose I felt restrained from taking it. The next day I felt restrained, and the next, and the next. I didn’t hear a voice, but I felt a message in my gut: “You’re ready. It’s time.” . . .

The other night, I asked for another priesthood blessing. He said, “God wants to remind you of the promises He has made to you. He will keep those promises.”

It has been seven months. Five of those were excruciating on many levels. Once again I’m taking medication… the same medication God prompted me to stop taking in March. Once again I’m depending upon a pill to remain calm and happy. Needless to say this has been a confusing year.

For much of May and June, as I battled severe anxiety and depression and finally surrendered to the necessity of re-medicating myself, I wondered, “Why would God tell me to stop taking my medication if I was going to crash without it?” Then I stumbled on a video that brought me a lot of peace. It shares a story told by Jeffrey R. Holland…

I took a dead end. Clearly the wrong road. Retraced my steps and got back on the right road. Why did I feel that the dead end was the proper road to take if it wasn’t? When I saw this video, my heart flared with the Spirit and I felt like Jeffrey R. Holland was speaking right to me. Now I can know with a certainty that I’m on the right road for me. I also know that my dead-end detour this summer served many purposes, many of them probably unknown to me, but some of them made clear to me many times over. It was not a waste. Many lives were blessed by it, including my own.

But what about God’s promise that I would be healed and be happy without medication? When I told my (Mormon) psychiatrist about those promises, he encouraged me to re-read a couple of talks. One of them I have adored since I first heard it spoken: “Like a Broken Vessel,” also from Jeffrey R. Holland. He urges:

If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.

This message from a friend also helped me come to peace:

Through prayer, meditation and personal revelation I’ve learned that it’s possible for me to have bipolar and be perfect/whole/complete. And it’s part of God’s plan for me to be medicated. . . . That was God’s answer for me. Not to be healed. For now or for this life? I don’t know. I know I will come forward in the Resurrection whole and perfect and I cling to that hope.

We live in a fallen world. For some of our brains and bodies, the world’s fallen nature has a deeper impact. My pure immortal spirit wanted to flee my fallen body so desperately this year. Enduring the darkness was excruciating. But, for now, medication is God’s compensation to me for the disparities between my spirit and my body. For now, a pill is what is making my brain and body bearable for my spirit. For now, the healing power of God has not removed my body’s weaknesses but enabled me to thrive in spite of them. It is not the healing I wanted or expected, but it is a healing of sorts. But mortality is brief. I will spend most of my existence free of medication. Someday I will be happy without medication. Until then, I’m OK with it.

The Power of a Mother’s Blessing

October 9, 2014 in Heather, Mother Blessing, Personal Revelation by Heatherlady

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It seems like very General Conference I have my ears and heart open to, and searching for, messages about birth, womanhood and motherhood. They are topics that I can always rest assured will get addressed in some way during General Conference. This time my heart was especially touched by Elder Henry B. Eyring’s talk entitled “Continuing Revelation”. He spoke about the privilege we have of being able to receive revelation for ourselves and those within our stewardship. He gave several examples of how revelation can be received but I was especially moved by his story about his mother, and how she was able to receive revelation for him.  He said:

” The revelation of a parent has its lasting effect in the personal revelation that continues in the child. My mother must have understood that principle of revelation. As a young man, I would close the back door very quietly when I came home late in the evening. I had to pass my mother’s bedroom on the way to mine. However quietly I tiptoed, just as I got to her half-opened door, I would hear my name, ever so quietly, “Hal. Come in for a moment.” I would go in and sit on the edge of her bed. The room would be dark. If you had listened, you would have thought it was only friendly talk about life. But to this day, what she said comes back to my mind with the same power I feel when I read the transcript of my patriarchal blessing.

I don’t know what she was asking for in prayer as she waited for me those nights. I suppose it would have been in part for my safety. But I am sure that she prayed as a patriarch does before he gives a blessing. He prays that his words will come to the recipient as the words of God, not his. My mother’s prayers for that blessing were answered on my head. She is in the spirit world and has been for more than 40 years. I am sure she has been exceedingly glad that I was blessed, as she asked, to hear in her counsel the commands of God. And I have tried to go and do as she hoped I would.”

He got incredibly emotional as he spoke these words about his mother. So much that I was worried for a moment that he might break down into sobs entirely and not be able to continue with his message. He didn’t, and pulled it together to finish his address, but I was very moved by the image of an adult man– and apostle of Jesus Christ nonetheless–  sobbing as he spoke about the influence his mother had on his life.

I have been feeling discouraged in my motherhood lately, wondering if anything I am doing really matters. I yearn to change the world in big ways, and sometimes feel so limited the walls of my home and the needs of my children. Yet, as I watched Elder Eyring speak about his mother I had a powerful realization that what I am doing as a mother is one of the most important things I will ever do, and that I am exactly where I need to be.

In his talk Elder Eyring compared the guidance and direction his mother gave him, in those quiet moments on her bed, as important and powerful as the promises given him in his Patriarchal blessing.  He said that his mother  prayed with the type of power that a patriarch does before he gives a blessing, and that she received revelation and spoke words that came directly from God. That is a powerful comparison and a reminder to me that motherhood is a calling that comes with real spiritual power and authority.

Elder Eyring’s words about the power of his mother’s words in shaping and directing his life reminded me of a story about Rebekah (the mother of Esau and Jacob) told in the the pseudepigraphal book of Jubilees. In Jubilees Rebekah is a main character who was instrumental in preserving the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant by ensuring that her son Jacob received the birthright blessing. When his older brother Esau found out what had happened Rebekah and Issac send Jacob away to find a wife, and to avoid his brothers anger. In Genesis 28: 1-4 we read how when Jacob was preparing to leave his father Issac gave him a father’s blessing saying, “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people. And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.”

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“Rebekah” by James L. Johnson

In the Jubilees account it also tells how before Jacob left his mother also gave him a blessing. Jubilees 25:1 says that Rebekah “lifted up her face to heaven and extended the fingers of her hands, and opened her mouth and blessed the Most High God” and then that, “when the spirit of righteousness descended into her mouth, she placed both her hands on the head of Jacob”. It is important to note here that Rebekah was not performing a priesthood blessing. She had been moved by the spirit of the Lord to speak words of truth with power and authority, and was exercising the spiritual gift of prophecy. She spoke to her son like Elder Eyring’s mother did, receiving revelation to guide his life. This type of revelation is something that all mothers are entitled to receive for their children, because mother’s have a divine stewardship over their children before they are born, while they are within their home, and even as they grow to adulthood.

Rebekah used this spiritual gift and promised her son many of the same things Issac had also promised him. She said:

 

“Blessed art thou, Lord of righteousness and God of the age. And may He bless thee beyond all the generations of men. May He give thee, my Son, the path of righteousness,  And reveal righteousness to thy seed. And may He make thy sons many during thy life, And may they arise according to the number of the months of the year.  And may their sons become many and great beyond the stars of heaven, And their numbers be more than the sand of the sea. And may He give them this goodly land -as He said He would give it to Abraham and to his seed after him alway- And may they hold it as a possession for ever. And may I see (born) unto thee, my son, blessed children during my life, And a blessed and holy seed may all thy seed be. And as thou hast refreshed thy mother’s spirit during her life, The womb of her that bare thee blesses thee thus, [My affection] and my breasts bless thee And my mouth and my tongue praise thee greatly. Increase and spread over the earth, And may thy seed be perfect in the joy of heaven and earth for ever; And may thy seed rejoice, And on the great day of peace may it have peace. And may thy name and thy seed endure to all the ages, And may the Most High God be their God, And may the God of righteousness dwell with them, And by them may His sanctuary be built unto all the ages. Blessed be he that blesseth thee, And all flesh that curseth thee falsely, may it be cursed.’

After she ended her blessing she kissed him, and told him, “May the Lord of the world love thee, As the heart of thy mother and her affection rejoice in thee and bless thee.”

This was probably the last time that Rebekah ever saw her son, as he didn’t return to his homeland again until he was an old man. Yet, I can imagine that he never forgot this blessing from his mother, nor how her words and actions influenced and shaped his life. Through Jacob would come the twelve tribes of Israel and the carrying forth of the Abrahamic covenant to the whole world… and Rebekah’s choices and influence had a big part in making that happen.

As I watched Elder Eyring’s display of emotion about his mother and the power of her words in his life, I was reminded just what a powerful calling motherhood is . It is more than giving life to a child, it is more than cooking, cleaning, feeding, and nurturing that life into existence. It is about shaping and  molding individuals into the spiritual giants they are inside. It is about receiving revelation and direction from God that will influence and bless your posterity. It is about serving others with power and authority. It is about influencing the course of history and it is about changing the world.

So don’t be afraid to open your mouth and help guide your children with power and authority. It is your birthright and your privilege as a mother. You never know what great work God is working through you or how your words and actions will shape generations.

And don’t ever doubt that what you do matters, because it does.  More than you will ever realize.

 

by Lani

Cherie Burton Book Review

April 28, 2014 in Adoption, Adversity, Book reviews, Depression, Fertility, Grief, Lani, Loss, miscarriage, Personal Revelation, Virtual Book Tour, Waiting by Lani

150602_426562187424709_1846303491_nToday’s Virtual Book Tour post comes from Cherie Burton. Cherie is an amazing, powerful woman and mentor/coach of other strong women. Because of her family’s history with depression and suicide, she is passionate about helping others achieve health and emotional balance. Cherie was also Utah County’s Young Mother of the Year in 2011 and considers being a wife and mother her greatest calling.

I loved meeting Cherie last summer. After she contacted me to set up a meeting, I spent some time on her blog reading about the miraculous and beautiful adoption of her Elijah. It struck a strong chord with me for a number of reasons. One being that I began having spiritual experiences with my own unborn son (also named Elijah) almost as soon as my fourth baby was born. I felt his presence among my children often, I dreamed about him, I saw him in vision. Reading about Cherie finding her Elijah stirred my own heart’s assurance that my Elijah wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

I love Cherie’s post about The Gift of Giving Life. Here’s an excerpt:

the-gift-of-giving-life-book-review-1I read The Gift of Giving Life in 2012, shortly after the miraculous private adoption of our magnificent son, Eli. I wept with the women who detailed their experiences with loss, grief and divine compensation. I felt a rising empowerment, a blazing second witness that women are in a very real partnership with The Creator of All as they sacrifice and bear down and descend. And then nobly and beautifully ascend. The Atonement of Christ is demonstrated more mightily through the sacrificial practice of mothering than through any other practice on Earth.

The Gift of Giving Life is a book about power. Woven into each chapter are stories that affirm the massive spiritual powers of wisdom, love and creation embodied in the Feminine. I love that this book addresses so many women’s experiences, from so many walks of life, who have the same underlying belief: That God knows our hearts and our needs as women and will mold a perfect plan that, through birth and rebirth, will take our souls and bodies to heights and depths we could never before fathom. I have learned that it is not just the experience of giving birth physically that empowers a woman to call herself mother. It is the praying, the losing, the weeping, the waiting. The pouring of her heart and soul into a vision and promise that only she and her Creator can hold form for.

You can read the rest of Cherie’s beautiful post HERE.

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by Lani

Our Deliverance

April 1, 2014 in Birth Stories, Dads, Family size, Fear, home birth, Lani, Midwives, Miracles, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Priesthood blessings by Lani

When my second child was two-and-a-half, we starting thinking about conceiving a third baby, a thought that both excited and terrified us simultaneously.  Could we really afford another child?  How would we pay for the birth, being without maternity insurance?  Could I really handle mothering three children? Gently, the Lord communicated to us that we would be blessed if we chose to invite another child into our home and that He would ensure that we had the means to provide for that child’s birth and life.

A few months later, I became pregnant. Each day was a constant struggle between faith and fear as we strained to hold fast to the Lord’s assurances that we would have the money we would need.  And I had to make a decision—where would my 3rd baby be born? We had never felt comfortable considering home birth in the past, but we knew that having our third baby at home would cost thousands of dollars less than paying for a hospital birth out-of-pocket. Only a week after I got a positive pregnancy test, I was already agonizing over the decision.  My husband gave me a priesthood blessing in which the Lord told me that He would guide me to make the right decision for us.  This scripture spoke to me in my dilemma:

 

Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him (Alma 58:11).

 

I agonized more and more and settled on a hospital birth with nurse-midwives recommended by a friend.  I definitely never had an overwhelming feeling that it was the answer to my dilemma, but it felt fine in the beginning.  After three or four prenatal appointments, I had met most of the nurse-midwives and loved them all, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t quite the right path for us.  So we went back to the drawing board and opened-up that agonizing question again.  Only this time (and for the first time in my life) I was really open to accepting home birth as the answer, and so was my husband.

On Halloween night (2008), my husband and I spent a couple of hours praying for guidance, searching the scriptures, and exchanging our thoughts and feelings.  We felt that the Lord was leading us toward a home birth and that our next step was to pray and ask the Lord if this choice was right.  When I prayed, I asked God to please help us to receive a clear answer so that we could move forward with confidence.

Then I asked for a priesthood blessing. What followed was one of the most tender and beautiful spiritual experiences of my life—the kind that words feel inadequate to describe or explain.  The actual words of the blessing were marvelous, but more than the words was the feeling that overwhelmed me.  We didn’t get far into the blessing before tears were streaming down my face as I choked back sobs (and I don’t cry easily).  I felt the most incredible burning in my heart—like I was being filled with the burning, life-giving love of God.  There is nothing in the world like that feeling.  It completely overwhelmed me.  I don’t know if an answer to my prayers has ever been so clear. When the blessing was over, I just hugged my husband and sobbed in his arms with joy and gratitude for the beautiful gift God had just given us.

Our answer was clear: we were having our baby at home!

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We continued to seek the Lord’s guidance as we selected the midwives who would attend our baby’s birth, Mary and Nedra. And the Lord, my God, “did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith,” just as He had told me He would, through the scriptures, at the beginning of my pregnancy.

The blessings and miracles continued to pour down upon us.  In February, I attended a doula training workshop (offered for free as a gift to the community by the doula trainer) where I met many women who would become my friends.  One of them, Cassie, offered to be my doula and take photographs of my birth (again, for free).  She also took some maternity photos for us (like the one above).  Unexpected additional income came to us, with the probability of further additional income opportunities in the future.  Just as the Lord had promised, we found ourselves with enough and to spare financially, and our baby’s birth was completely paid-for by my 36th week of pregnancy.

Then, on April 1, 2009, my son made his debut. My water broke in the afternoon, contractions started a couple of hours later, and about five hours later, I was clinging to my husband’s arms over the edge of the fishy pool, moaning through the hardest contractions.

I could tell I was in transition when I found myself reaching my limit.  It was at this time that I turned to God.  I don’t think there is any other physical experience that brings a person closer to the veil between earth and heaven than childbirth—particularly the 7 cm to delivery span.  I silently cried to God: “Help me!” My mind wandered back and forth between my present physical surroundings and an otherworldly distant space.  Somewhere in that space I found myself calling to my deceased friend, “Catheryn, I need you now!”  I don’t know if it was her voice or my own that whispered in my head, “It’s almost over.  You’re almost finished.” My husband’s soothing touch and the words “It’s almost over” playing over and over in my head are what carried me through to the end.

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I moved to the bed for the delivery. Perhaps it was Mary’s oil and hot compresses, but I never really felt the “ring of fire.”  I didn’t even really know the head was out until I heard someone say, “His head is out!”  Then Mary said, “Reach down and pull out your baby!”  I grasped onto his warm, slippery shoulders and pulled him up onto my chest.  It was 10:55 pm on April 1—an April Fool’s day baby!

At first all I could see was the top of his dark-haired head and his slippery arms and back.  We touched and rubbed him—alternating between smiling at each other and staring at our baby—as the midwives draped a towel over him.  I breathed quickly in and out, saying something like, “Oh my gosh!” and then, “Is he OK? Is he OK?”  Mary smiled and calmly said, “He’s just fine!  He’s doing great!”  Everyone started talking and smiling and taking photos.  My husband felt a tear roll down his cheek and watched it land on my shoulder.

Afterward, I was so full of energy and endorphins that I couldn’t stop smiling and didn’t really sleep for at least a day.  Within an hour after the birth, I was up and showering.  Then I went downstairs to grab a bite to eat, almost as though my body hadn’t just given birth (intact perineum… woohoo!).  The next days, weeks, and months I spent in bliss, more deeply in love with my tiny little boy than I ever imagined I could be. I had never experienced anything like the intense, fierce bond I was blessed to experience with that tiny baby boy, despite having two older children (whom I loved).

When the Lord communicated to us all those years ago that we would be blessed for inviting another of His spirit children into our home (two years later, we invited our 4th), I couldn’t have imagined just how blessed we would be.  I know with all my heart that our greatest blessings and joys come when we allow the Lord to guide us in all of our decisions.

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by Lani

Seeking Earnestly the Best Gifts

March 29, 2014 in Divine nature, Lani, Love, Personal Revelation, Power of Words, Prayer, Priesthood, Priesthood blessings, Thoughts, Women's Rights, Young Women by Lani

 

You say it’s in this heart of mine
Everything I need to shine
It’s love alone that makes this light
And gives us wings and takes us through the night
-Dan Zanes, “Firefly

For the past couple of weeks, it has felt very much like my soul has been straining, reaching, trying to uncover something just beyond my grasp. I’m sitting down to write because, like Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

The Mormon news world has been humming with articles, letters, blogposts, comments, so many opinions swirling around the subject of women and Priesthood ordination. Personally, I don’t want to attend Priesthood Session, and I don’t want to be ordained as a deacon, elder, bishop, apostle, or prophet. But my heart has compassion toward those women who are seeking “earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8) and grappling with questions. Joseph Fielding Smith has told us: “If [women] are faithful and true, they will become priestesses” (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 287). None of us really knows how God would define a “priestess” and her powers. Do we already possess these powers and simply need to develop them more fully? Will they be given to us at some point in the future? These are valid questions I’ve wondered about myself.

This post isn’t really a “women and the priesthood” post per se, but it was the priesthood issue that prompted my initial straining, reaching, searching. In my efforts to better understand the issue, I have been delving deep into the subject of power, what it means to have power, what it means to em-power—petitioning God in prayer and meditation for answers, scouring the scriptures, articles, scientific research, and various books for the missing pieces in my understanding.

I’ve also scanned my memories, working to discover whose influence has been the most powerful in my life and why. Of course parents, grandparents, and close friends are givens. Certainly my favorite authors. But what about regular people? What about those strangers I can’t forget? What made them powerful?

When I was about thirteen years old, I got stuck in the Columbus, Ohio, airport, flying stand-by with my brother, trying to get back to Boston after visiting our grandparents and cousins in Utah. The flights were packed and the prospects of getting out of that airport reasonably soon were slim. I panicked. My overactive imagination began catastrophizing up a storm. I couldn’t relax. I could hardly breathe.

Then an airline employee at one of the gate desks took compassion on us. We had probably come up to her after failing to obtain seats on the last flight of the evening, asking whether there was any chance of luck in the morning. I don’t remember her name, but twenty years later I can still remember how her kind eyes and smile melted my fears away. If my memory serves me correctly, she spent a considerable amount of time helping us look at our options, talking with our family on the phone about possibilities, probably staying long past the end of her shift. She had a good soul, a nurturing heart, and I could feel it deep in my core. She didn’t make our problems go away, but in her presence, I felt at peace. In her presence, I felt for a few moments that everything was going to be OK. And that was enough to get me through that night in Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s what I know. That woman was powerful.

Carolyn Myss has written: “The truth is that the more you empower others, the more powerful you become” (Invisible Acts of Power, p. 44). How powerful am I? How am I using my power? I love these words from President David O. McKay (I took the liberty of making the pronouns feminine to better suit my theme): 

 

There is one responsibility which no woman can evade; that responsibility is her personal influence, a silent, subtle radiation. . . .  This radiation is tremendous. Every . . . person who lives in this world wields an influence whether for good or for evil. It is not what she says alone; it is not alone what she does. It is what she is. . . . Every woman has an atmosphere which is affecting every other person. She cannot escape for one moment from this radiation of her character, this constant weakening or strengthening of others (qtd in Thomas, p. 187).

 

When I think of the magnitude of the power I wield, it is sort of frightening to me. I can crush another person, or I can send them soaring. I can alter the atmosphere in a room in an instant by my own energy and behavior. That woman in the Columbus airport radiated a character so beautiful that it swept my panic away and replaced it with peace. That’s the kind of power I want. That’s the kind of character I want to radiate.

I was talking to my friend/co-author Felice about my soul-searching and questions about power last weekend. She said, “Have you read The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis?” I happened to have it on my bookshelf (purchased years ago for a book club but never finished). The Great Divorce is C.S. Lewis’s brief fictional journey from hell to heaven. Felice described to me a part of the book that I have now read multiple times and keep coming back to. I’ll paste a condensed excerpt here:

First came bright Spirits . . . who danced and scattered flowers. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. . . . Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done. . . . It must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. . . . Only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

“Is it?… is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be . . . well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.” . . .

“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter. . . . Her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. . . .“

“And how… but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat—two cats—dozens of cats. And all those dogs… why, I can’t count them. And the birds. And the horses.”

“They are her beasts.”

“Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.”

“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. The abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”

I looked at my Teacher in amazement.

“Yes,” he said. “It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.” (p. 117-120)

There is much I still don’t know or understand. The longer I live, the more complex, heart-wrenching, and confusing life seems to become. But all of this pondering has led me back to this most basic of truths:

There are many of God’s powers available for us to harness and develop here upon the Earth, and the greatest of these is love.

I can be powerful in this life. We all can. Every moment. Of every day. Radiating who we are, wakening the dead things of the universe into life.

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My 8- and 10-year-old daughters’ hands 🙂