Motherhood is for everyone

Her name is Jasmine.

Actually I think her name is something else but she told me she likes to change her name every day for fun. I guess yesterday was a “Jasmine” kind of day.

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She loves the color purple. She wants to be a soccer star when she grows up.

She smiles all the time and pretends she’s a princess. And yet–life is hard for her.

Throughout the day I learned that Jasmine’s sister died, her mother can hardly take care of her, and she’s never met her dad. So she comes here after school to play, get help with math homework, and have something to eat.

I wasn’t sure what to expect yesterday when I went with my company to do volunteer work at a group home. But I certainly didn’t expect to meet Jasmine–or any of the other twenty-something kids who seemed to just blow in with the wind.

These kids come every day after school since they have nowhere else to go. They’re wandering souls not yet immune to the poison of a hard world.  My heart couldn’t help but break as I scanned the room that day. A group of teenage boys sat alone at a table playing a card game and erupted into laughter and playful jests as soon as someone won. A toddler sat on someone’s lap, his shirt soaked with apple juice. A group of young girls with braided hair and pink shoes formed a circle in a far corner, talking with their hands. So many kids. So many struggles. So little moms.

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And then, of course, Jasmine broke my train of thought.

“Do you have kids?” she asked me. I shook my head no.

“Well, you can be MY mom now!” she exclaimed during snack time.

And the words struck me.

Maybe it struck me because I’m not yet a mom–and because of medical reasons, it’ll be awhile before I am. Maybe it struck me because motherhood always went hand in hand in my mind with pregnancy, painting a new nursery, or driving a car strapped down with car seats. It never really struck me before that moment that I can still be a mom. So can you.

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It really is the most sacred calling.

I have a world against me on that opinion– I realize this. You might be too.

Bloggers, columnists, extreme feminists and modern-day thinkers join in a fight against motherhood. Motherhood is restricting, they’ll say. Motherhood is a 1950’s approach to oppressing women. Motherhood, some say, is for those women who don’t have any other ambitions in life or for those who wind up chained down. And with this line of thinking we slowly forget what being a mom even is. We forget that it’s all about reaching out to someone who needs it. It’s about selflessness. Mentorship. Nurturing. Compassion. God’s work.

I think back now to not only my amazing Mom, but the countless other women along the way who loved me, taught me, sacrificed for me, and wound up on their knees for me. They were women who had no children of their own, women who had quite a few mouths to feed at home, women who were young, women who were so old that I only remember them in my early childhood memories. They were women who taught me patience or music or writing well or faith in God. Women who stayed after school to help me with long division. They were strong, selfless, beautiful women consistently taking on the role of mother. Those are the women I remember.

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We aren’t called to live a life dedicated to ourselves. It’s never the reason we came. And I’m tired of living in a world where selflessness is equated with weakness.

Elder Holland once said in an address, The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.”

It’s always been worth it.

Eve understood this when she stepped out of Eden just so we could be born. Sarai understood this when Abraham told her their generations would be as numerous as the stars and she thanked God for it. Mary understood it when she rearranged her entire life and lost friends and a good reputation all to make way for the Savior. Jesus himself understood the value of motherhood when some of the last words he spoke were to John, asking him to take care of his mother. From the beginning of time we’ve been reminded of our responsibility to God’s children and the eternal principle of it. Why have we forgotten?

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Be the woman that changes everything for someone. Jasmine’s simple, childlike plea reminded me of the urgency of it all.

Whether you have six children or no children, whether you grew up in a home with a mother who loved you or a home without one present–be someone’s rescue, if only for a period of time in their lives.

Be someone’s mom.

Oh, and I promise you–it’s not old fashioned to change the world.

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Endings are the saddest part: But they often don’t exist

I bet everyone can agree that there’s always beauty in beginnings.

Driving to the hospital to meet my newborn nephew the other day, getting the keys to that first apartment or the brand new cherry-red car on my 16th birthday. Putting a veil on and carefully tying the back of a brand new wedding dress, accepting that much-prayed-for job offer, the first day on a brand new campus that’d be home to my lifelong memories. Beginnings always carry a sweet smelling perfume of a memory to me. But endings? No. Normally, *unless it’s a boring movie or a canker sore* endings are the stuff that tragedy is made up of.

At least it seems like it.

Recently I got the news that my sister-in-law’s best friend Logann was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. But this time, it’s in its final stages. My sister-in-law had cancer too and died just two years ago. Logann’s sister, Lauren, reached out to me with pictures and memories, and before long I was scrolling through her facebook page, blinking back tears and reading statuses that hint at worsening symptoms. I don’t know Logann much, but I know how it feels to face an ending.

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I carefully clicked through the photos of the young faces of the kids she’ll soon leave behind. The ending for their family is coming, just as it had for Natalie, who didn’t even make it to that last trip to DisneyLand with her kids. Just as it had for my Dad who hadn’t even had the time to acquire wrinkles. Just as it had for countless faces and names from my readers who share pictures and stories throughout my inbox–people who share the general ache of having been through an ending of some sort.

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For some, it’s the ending that comes with seeing a child move across the country with a new husband and a U-Haul. For some, it’s the loss of a career or a divorce that leaves empty drawers, empty halls, and an empty heart. For some, it’s the ending that comes with a severed friendship or a miscarriage that leaves you with empty arms and a few loose ultrasound pictures to prove that a child ever even existed.

Time can seem like a relentless, cruel train that moves fast and uninterrupted. Time stops for no one and quickly reminds us that every day we’re dying or nearing an end of something. Some of us just know when that time will be, others of us have no idea.

It all just ends in an ending, we think.. And the only beauty we can possibly hope for is that there will be a beginning soon after.

But what if we decided to find the beauty before that eventual beginning? Is it possible? Well, today–I learned it is.

Today was General Conference in my church. General Conference is a time when leaders of my church come together to talk about a wide variety of things that they’ve prayed about or felt inspiration to teach. No matter where you are in the world you can listen in by internet or television or broadcasts in meetinghouses. One talk in particular today reached me in a way that made me wonder if Heaven itself wrote that message just for Kayla. But of course not–we all needed to hear it.

The talk was by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He spoke about gratitude throughout the pains of life, understanding in all things, and before ending his talk he simply stated,”There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we’re made out of the stuff of eternity. Endings are not our destiny.”

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Endings don’t sit well with us because there’s often no such thing. We feel the need to keep existing–to keep connected with those we love and to always have another sunrise. We often forget, I learned today, that we’re not dying every day. We’re just continuing.

And if we believe in eternity, then that means we believe that nothing–not even death–can be considered an end.

As children of the creator of a universe dotted with galaxies and stars and life still undiscovered that goes on and on and never hits a wall, we also follow the pattern of creation. We don’t end either.

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Sometimes it’s hard to see simply because we don’t comprehend the magnitude of it, just as we can’t wrap our minds around the nonexistent walls of universe that stretch on forever. But every now and then, like those words that hit me today, the spirit will whisper a reminder.

Lauren sent me a note recently tagged along with the photos of her and her sweet sister that states she’s grateful for time that she has left with Logann–the gift that reminds her this isn’t where it ends. It’s simply a pause. She said Logann spends her days talking about eternity with the kids–a concept that is almost impossible to understand now, but something that will be the only comfort someday and the only truth.

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There’s a beauty in knowing that we’re more constant than the sun–that our eternal value is more dependable than the tides. There’s a beauty in being reminded that what we call endings are nothing more than a flicker of pause in a seamless fabric of eternity–the same fabric that makes up an ever-stretching universe. The same fabric made from our Father’s hands.

When we look at it that way–at least for me–it’s not just the beginnings that seem beautiful. It’s the continuing.

Click here to donate to Logann and her sweet family.