A call for sisterhood. The number one problem of women isn’t men, it’s women.

Throughout my life, my past and current career, I have spoken to literally hundreds of thousands of women. Women from all walks of life, the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. Highly educated women, and women who could’ve been killed for having learned to read. Women at the top of the corporate ladder and women who scrub toilets for a living. (I’ve been both of those) Women who are mothers and those who aren’t. Religious women from all sects, and women of no faith at all. Every shade, size and background represented.

It’s a cherished space I get to share with women, as they confide in me their deepest wounds. I’m in awe of all that they’ve come through. I haven’t met a woman yet who doesn’t have some battle scars. These warrior women have become my heroes and sisters in arms. It’s been a privilege to wipe thousands of tears as they share their stories with me. It’s through those tears I’ve found that some of the most constant sources of a woman’s pain, has come at the hands of each other. I’m here to tell you ladies, the number one problem of women isn’t men, it’s women. That may come as a shock with all of the marches and women’s initiatives constantly flashed before our eyes in the media. I’m here to talk about what happens when we go home.

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the advancement of women in this world. Men undoubtedly hold a lot of keys to that. However, that’s a conversation for another day. Today is about holding ourselves accountable. If the advancement of women is what we truly seek, then it’s time we turn that pointer finger around to our own chest and acknowledge the role we play in stunting our growth.

Somewhere in recent years, we’ve gotten off track. Are we crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s of high achievement? Sure. Women continue to knock down every door that lays before them. At no other time in history have we shared more power or been more represented as women. It’s beautiful, really. Give me an instance where so much of this world is isn’t tempered on the attitudes of women- I think you’ll find there’s few. Other than in cases of abuse or severe oppression, we can count on women to set the priorities, the standards, the examples and most importantly – we set the mood in most arena’s. There’s a lot to be proud of.

However, when it comes to the treatment of each other, a lot of us have gone back to the school yard. We’ve lost the soul of what it means to be a woman. What happened to unity, loyalty, nurturing, mentorship, friendship and love? Some women do those things incredibly well, but not enough of us to stop the bleeding. Ladies, we have forgotten our roots. It’s time to retrace our steps and correct our footing. This is a beckon to higher ground.

Whether it be in at work, school, religious communities or neighborhoods, women express a deep struggle with unity. If you look at the history of women, the key to any substantial advancement was unity. Women laced arms as they fought for the right to vote, to own their own wages and property, and for the power to choose their own destiny. We are the benefactors of centuries of sacrifice. I think it’s time we ask ourselves, how are we honoring their legacy?

In recent years, unity is something that eludes us as women. Even feminism has not been the great unifier that we hoped it would be. I think it’s actually brought to light how divided we are within the ranks of women. Feminism used to be about standing together for equal rights. Now it’s about how worthy you are to wear the uterus. What happened to us?

Women of the past didn’t have the luxury of division amongst them. We do. We now hold the power they fought hard for, and it’s a power we don’t always use for good.  I think social media has left us all feeling that we are forced to compete with each other in every arena. Now that are lives are on constant broadcast for all to see, too often we find ourselves in the judgement seat of our sisters. Where there is a lack of unity, there is always suffering. We’re all paying that price today.

The Price of Success – One of the biggest surprises in talking to women is what can only be described as “success scars.” You give me a successful woman and I’ll give you a woman that’s got an identity crisis. It’s true. Being successful is a navigation nightmare for a woman. In order to protect the confidences that women have entrusted me with, I’ll share some of my experiences that reflect the sentiment of what I hear every day from legions of women.

Understand that it’s a little daunting to share this. From my own experience – I can say that the more I knocked down the personal barriers in my life that lead to achievement, the harder it is to thrive within my own tribe – women. Now, I love working with women, I do – but it comes at a cost. I’ve learned to stomach that cost, and I’ve got the ulcers to prove it.

In order for you to truly appreciate the struggle – Picture the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” except insert me for Will Smith. That was my life twentyish years ago. Yes, it was that desperate and worse. Shame kept me from telling anyone how hard it was just to survive every day.

From the beginning stages of my career, women were hard on me. One thing I had to learn quick, was that women have a really hard time making room for each other professionally. Especially the seasoned women. Regardless of how hard and long I worked, there was little I could do to earn their respect. I think they felt my ambition to change my circumstances got in their way. Both metaphorically and physically – I hadn’t eaten for a long time. I was hungry and I longed to be fed. That insatiable hunger drove me to high achievement. Yet that achievement offended the women in my life. How do you reconcile that, when you need both? I was so young. I had no family other than a tiny little boy who was counting on me. Their acceptance and mentorship would have meant the world to me. I wasn’t there to offend them. I was there to save me, to save us. It was my deep seeded fear of failure that propelled me forward, but my humility never left. That’s the thing about having good doses of abuse, neglect and homelessness – rock bottom and I became good friends. Honestly, I don’t know which offended them more – my advancement, or the “kill em with kindness” I exhibited during the process – which also made me weak in their eyes.

I loved my career. I cherished my patients. It was truly the most beautiful work. 13 years later, a lot had changed in my life. I left to stay home with my babies. They needed me more than my career did. It was also time to support my husband’s career. His had taken a back seat to mine for the whole of our whole marriage. As I write these words, I can’t help but smile – for that was criticized too.

Fast forward to my current career.

Speaking, writing, loving people. It’s seriously the best job ever. I love this work. I think it’s important to share this piece because it’s so reflect of the stories I constantly hear from women. No matter what their station in life – here in lies the struggle. We’ve zipped up the straight jacket of expectation so high, that none of us can hardly breathe. Entering a room full of women is hard, no matter who you are or what you do.

Whenever I walk into a room full of women who know my background and story, it’s intimidating. People knowing your “junk” isn’t easy. As I greet women, I am always received with one of two attitudes – admiration or indifference – with a hint of resentment.

My heart is constantly conflicted with my stature – so do I shrink or do I rise?

Do I SHRINK? – The indifference or resentment I experience is what I like to call, “How dare you rise” syndrome. Where we see someone’s success and not only do we refuse to acknowledge it, but we are mean to each other because of it. You don’t know how many times I’ve endured being ignored or snubbed by women. Church is the worst. Some people have been really, really unkind. (I’m using my church words) It’s become a door that gives me anxiety to have to walk through each week. Physically my stature doesn’t change, but I’m pretty sure I drop ten inches every time I enter the building. Anyway, the whole attitude reeks of “Other people may think you are something special, but let me tell you – I don’t. You are nothing to me. In fact, I refuse to even acknowledge you.” I can spot that from a mile away. Each time it’s like a dagger to my soul. Do you honestly think that we as women, and as people- ever outgrow the need for love and acceptance? If you think we can “success” our way to immunity in this arena you are kidding yourself. We always need our sisters, and we always need their love. We will always need that sense of community. Honestly, these are the women I spend a lot of time loving really hard. I want them to know I’m in their corner. I’m not about me, I’m about US. I’m paving the way for you, and I know you are doing the same for me. We all have sacred gifts to give and I honor yours as well.

Do I RISE? – As any women can attest that  when it comes to admiration, “love” hurts. Admiration normally means being put on a pedestal that we never asked to be on. Whether for how far we’ve come, current success, or the pressure for consistent performance, it’s stressful. It feels like you have to constantly keep announcing… “And for my next act…world peace.” Admiration is something that is always short lived, because the second we show an ounce of flaw- we come crashing down off that pedestal that we never asked to be on. In my own experience, people are devastated by my weakness- and I’m not allowed any wiggle room to be a human being. I hope you never know what it’s like to have your friendship, your intimacy and your association with others be contingent on your perfection. It means never really having a friend that you can be yourself or be honest with. I can’t say that it’s lonely at the top, because I don’t feel I’m anywhere near the summit. However, I can attest that it’s awfully lonely in the middle. The nausea of expectation and fear of your world getting even smaller can make you scared to keep climbing. Some women get off the ladder because of this very thing. It’s what’s described as “The loneliness of leadership”. I shudder to think of all the gifts this world has lost at the hands of success scars.

The Cost of “Failure”: I think the only thing worse than paying the price of success, is the cost of “failure” in the eyes of our peers. I hate even using that word, cause it’s so far from the truth. When a woman chooses a life that makes her happy, some times we women feel it is our duty to be critical of her choices. If she chooses to stay home and raise children – she’s “wasted her potential.” If a woman chooses less than a master’s degree, then she’s treated like she lacks the aptitude to have an opinion on any political issue or social construct. If she never marries, we can’t help but wonder, “What’s wrong with her?” If she chooses not to, or finds that she can’t have children- she must be selfish. If she is thin and beautiful, it’s cause for resentment. If she’s plain or plump – she’s either looked past or considered undisciplined. Sigh.

You know, I’ve always resented the 1-10 scale some men use to “rate” women. Placing a number on a woman based on physical attributes is repulsive. Maybe my years have jaded me, but at least a man’s scale is binary. We know where we stand with him.

A women’s judgement is completely suggestive, mostly based off how she’s feeling about herself today. This is EXHAUSTING. Seriously, think about it! With how critical we are of each other, I can’t help but wonder – what in the world would it take for a woman to get a 10?

In the words of Elizabeth Bennet, “I never saw such a woman. Surely she would be a fearsome thing to behold.” (if you don’t know Jane Austin, I’m judging you. 😉

Sisters, here’s the take away. In all my conversations with women combined with my own experiences – it’s safe to say that we’re all struggling to feel welcome in our tribe. We are living in a mode where we are scared to make room for each other. We can be very critical and unkind. We need to mentor more than we manipulate, support more than we sabotage, and help more than we hurt. I think our ancestors would be sad to see that the shackles they shed, have become the shackles we put on each other. We are the key to our own oppression, so let’s liberate ourselves. Their sacrifice means that we get to define what “opportunity” means for us, as women. Whether that means staying home to raise your family, or being a lawyer, or cleaning toilets to feed your babies… it’s all warrior work. So use your powers for good. Help a sister out. Give each other room to breathe. This life is ROUGH, and we’re all taking turns being in the fetal position. The only thing women will ever get from me is a high five celebrating that we’re all upright today. Let us lift each other with love and loyalty.

All My Love,

Dawn

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America the Beautiful, we can learn a lot from Texas.

Our country was born of men who longed to be free.

Men who longed to speak  what was in their hearts and to worship their God, whomever they believed him to be. Men with a desire to be the master of their own destinies- to rise above their given station and build the life of their dreams.

Through much sacrifice, these great men built a bridge for all of those that would follow them. Each generation adding to their legacy. It wasn’t a perfect history by any means. Full of bumps and bruises- thousands of generations have experienced the growing pains of making a nation great. Many wars have have been fought to ensure our founders dreams were made available to ALL MEN. It’s no surprise that we are still getting there.

The beauty has been in the progress. Throughout our history, countries around the world have admired America for what she stood for. The Statue of Liberty we know was a gift from France, but few know the beautiful history  about how the idea of her was conceived. It was believed to have come from not only the sculpter himself, Frédéric Bartholdi, but also a staunch abolitionist, Édouard René de Laboulaye – a passionate supporter of the Union in America’s Civil War. With the abolition of slavery and the Union’s victory in the Civil War in 1865, Laboulaye’s wishes of freedom and democracy were turning into a reality in the United States. To honor these achievements, Bartholdi and Laboulaye proposed that a gift be built for the United States on behalf of France. Both hoping that by calling attention to the recent achievements of the United States, the French people would be inspired to call for their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy.

So in New York Lady Liberty sits, inscribed with a poem written by Emma Lazarus, her famous words read: “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Her words would eventually give rise to the nickname:  The Golden Door.

Our nations endeavors gave rise to many nicknames, such as: “Land of the Free”, “Home of the Brave”, “Land of Opportunity”. The Chinese actually call the United States of America “Mei-Guo,” which translates to “beautiful nation.”

For centuries now, Immigrants have flocked here seeking prosperity in all aspects of their life. We rejoice in adding them to our family. It’s on the backs of Immigrants that this great nation was built.

America wasn’t looked up to because our history was perfect, or because our people were perfect. We were looked up to because we learned how to overcome the obstacles that laid before us. A self reflective nation, we weren’t blind to the problems that existed, and we did the work. A messy work, no doubt. It was around the dinner table, our fore fathers talked religion, politics, theology and industry. Passionate for sure – but these men always left the table as friends.

Now, I’m not here to give you a history lesson, only to set the stage. When I look around these last several years, I can’t help but feel that “our people” have lost their way.

For more than the last couple of decades, I think its fair to say that the United States has more accurately resembled the “Divided States.”  It seems like every class is at odds with someone. Gay vs Straight, Black vs White, Rich vs Poor, Immigrant vs Native, Religious vs Non Religious, Muslim vs Christian, Millenials vs Gen X, Republican vs Democrat, etc. I could go on, but it’s just sad.  There isn’t a sect that isn’t at odds with someone. We all are feeling the pain of that everyday, as we see the worst of humanity on endless loop via social media. I have to tell ya, I’m on here a lot less. Can’t stomach the unkindness.

However, these past two weeks I’ve seen the tides turn, in a very literal way.

As Hurricane Harvey has wreaked it’s havoc, hundreds of thousands were displaced. Some lost everything they owned, some lost everyone they loved. Seeing the devastation down there, it’s hard to truly wrap your head around all of it, especially the very long road ahead to rebuild lives left in complete ruin.

Story after story of tragedy, heartbreak and of loss, yet here’s where beauty meets darkness in its face. Yes my friends, “our people” showed up…and they showed up HUGE. We have breathed new life into “The American Way”. Coupled with each story of tragedy, have been amazing stories of selflessness, service and love. Person after person- bringing their gifts and willing hands to save their brother or sister.

All difference was washed away with the floods, leaving only a desire to see humanity saved.

We honored the elderly, the way they should be.

and the youth were appreciated for the gifts they bring to the world.

(Photos by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

We saw people of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds- taking care of one other…


Each church was represented in the service of their fellow man. All praying to the same God for help for their brothers and sisters. No thoughts of theology, just calling on the powers of heaven, united in a cause. 

All were grateful for the strong arms of good men…

REUTERS/Adrees Latif

The strong arms of good women were equally as important.

We fed the hungry…

sheltered the homeless…

and found friendship in places we may have never looked before.

We wiped the tears of our sisters in every shade…

This is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen. This is what humanity looks like. It’s what true sisterhood looks like. It’s what love looks like.

America…this is the real us. We showed up, in the “American Way”.
We have driven thousands of miles to help strangers. We have given, even when it hurts. We have seen the best in each other in the worst possible circumstances. We have loved our neighbor as ourselves. This is the America I have always believed in, that I will always believe in. We are surrounded by goodness everyday. May we never forget our roots. Let us continue down this road of unity and love and may God BLESS AMERICA, land that I love.

I’m proud of us.

Love,

Dawn

 

 

 

Elder Armstrong, Take 2 – Called to Serve (AWESOME Video)

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve been on social media…and I haven’t posted on my blog since just before Drew got his mission call. Once his church mission call came…honestly, I couldn’t keep up. We had eight weeks before his departure date. Eight short weeks to get him ready. Eight weeks to make final memories with him at home. Eight weeks left with my child, who clearly is a man now. Just try telling my heart.

Quite literally, I was chasing time.

I tried to keep up with all that we were doing, but it got to a point where honestly, I craved not living my life through a seven-inch screen. I just wanted to make it last, and for time to crawl. I wanted to savor each day, really living and breathing in every second. I was constantly taking snap shots in my mind at every precious moment. Cherishing every giggle and group hug we had left as a family. I craved intimacy and quiet, something that I didn’t realize I missed so much until I took it back for this season.

Now, while all these precious memories are fresh in my mind, I’m ready to put them to script. I’ll start with the night it all began. We weren’t expecting his call to come that day, so I had to throw together a party in like an hour and a half. A little stressful, but it was a big day that deserved some fan fare.

As we got closer to the time Drew was to open his call, I could feel my anxiety level rise. As much as I love what this means for him, there is a certain amount of dread I feel knowing what it means for my family. This isn’t my first rodeo. So…I took a quiet moment to center my thoughts to where they should be. I escaped up into my room, got on my knees and I prayed.

I prayed so hard for Drew to go where he was needed, and most importantly, where he’d promised. I prayed that as he read those words, he would feel peace and regain the knowledge of that promise. You see, I believe with all of my heart – that we made promises to one another before we ever came down here. That there would come a time in each of our lives, that we would need someone to nudge us towards God. Towards a life that would reveal our divine gifts and purpose, towards grace, and a love and depth of healing that we had forgotten was possible.

Through his missionary service, Drew isn’t really called to teach. It’s more that he’s called to learn. To learn the Lord’s way. He also isn’t there to save, it’s more to BE SAVED. To be saved by the lessons, the heartbreak, the love he’ll give and receive. It’s his sacred chance to convert himself and his heart… completely towards God and Christ’s teachings.

If it is our desire is to truly become like Christ…we have to spend the majority of our time here coming to the rescue of one other. We can’t save each other in the same way Christ did, but there’s no doubt that God needs us to save one another. He needs the change that happens in our hearts and character when we do. We are his hands for a reason. It will be through loving, serving and sacrificing for others that Drew will find his power and purpose. You give a young person that kind of knowledge, and I’ll give you a miracle that will unleash a lifetime of miracles. Get the hence, Satan. There’s a new game in town. 🙂

Anyway…enough preachin. I closed the prayer asking God to help my heart relish a day and goal 19 years in the making, and finally – to remind Drew to be grateful for the beautiful gift he was about to receive. The gift of opportunity. It’s rare in life when we get the chance to throw the world at our feet and put God first to this degree. It is a privilege as much as a sacrifice.

The thing about this prayer, is that everything I was asking God for..I knew he had already given it to us. But there is something very sacred in the asking. For me, it keeps my heart in a constant state of humility. I am reminded of where all of the good in my life comes from, and I feel peace and comfort keeping him by my side. Isn’t it beautiful, when we invite God into all the spaces of our life, and not reserve our conversations with him only in times of despair.

I headed downstairs to a moment that was about to change everything. Mostly, change a boy I had been in love with for nineteen years.

 

Isn’t he the cutest? Man…I’m so proud of his gentle heart. He’s got such a sweet and sincere way about him. I loved watching him take center stage and cheering from the sidelines as he read the words that would change his life. It was a red letter day for Craig and I. We couldn’t be more proud of him. The second he read those words….I had a flight of calm came over me. It was like I was in a room by myself…and God swept peace right into my heart. I knew instantly, that it will be the perfect experience for him. I have to say…that as a mom who’s lost a child, I’m not a big fan of foreign missions. I don’t like my babies far away from me at all. South Africa about killed me last time with Anthony. I got through it ok (just didn’t sleep for two years), but when Drew said, “DC”… I wanted to scream “YES, YES, YES!!!!” I don’t tell my kids that, cause it’s not about me. This is their journey and I’ll support whatever God needs them to do. Needless to say though, I WAS THRILLED.

This video just makes me cry dang it. Watching my children run around the house…it got me. They are growing up on me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’m deciding to take in the joy though…and be grateful for the beautiful gift I have in each one of them. I am in awe of their goodness and light.

I’d like to thank my dear friend RJ Idos, who shared his incredible talents with us making this stunningly perfect video. What a gift he has given me in this memory. I’ll cherish this forever. Thanks, my brotha. <3

Hurrah for Israel! What a gift of a good day.

Love,

Dawn

Some pics of our beautiful day!

 

 

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Dear Missionary….It’s your call

My son Andrew (Drew) is due to receive his mission call literally any day now. He’s been checking the mail several times a day, hoping for that much anticipated white envelope. I remember going through the same anticipation with Anthony. I was a ball of nerves! Yesterday he checked the mail like four times, even though he knew the answer wasn’t going to change. Not today friend, not today. It’s killing us!

In the past few years, social media has let us share beautiful moments with those that wouldn’t otherwise get to be a part of watching a mission call being opened. Mission call parties are becoming a fairly common occurrence. With these developments, have come some unintended consequences.

This season of our lives always strikes up a lot of comrade with members all over the world. Get missionary parents in a room and proudly, it’s all we talk about. Mom’s are the worst. 🙂 This makes me privy to a lot of stories and experiences, some hilarious, some informational, and some very eye opening.

I share the following story with the permission:

After much self reflection and prayer, my friend’s daughter made the amazing and heart wrenching decision to serve a mission. Several appointments, interviews and hours spent on the computer later, she clicked “SUBMIT”. Everything in her life was about to change. How, when and where it would change, all depended on that “Great White Envelope”. Everyone was on high alert, just waiting for the word on when it arrived.

After several trips to the mailbox that week, it finally came!!! She was beside herself with joy. Blissful calls went out to friends and family. She wanted all the people that mean the most to her to come and witness her big day! She couldn’t wait to share this moment with them.

With her cherished ones gathered around her, she read the following words,

“Dear Sister ______, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – You are assigned to labor in the Charlotte, North Carolina Mission.”

Tears went down her face. She was thrilled. She knew when she read those words it was where God wanted her to be. When you watch the video, she was completely joyful. She looked like she won the lottery. Everything about it felt good, it felt right. Her parents were through the moon.

As her friends came up to hug her, she anticipated congratulatory remarks, and a lot were. However, a lot of what she heard was the following:

“Awww, Are you ok?”
“Are you disappointed?”
“Are you so sad?”
“Do you still want to go?”
“Are you still going to serve?”
“Awww, I was hoping you’d go somewhere cool.”

By the end of the night, something that had been a very joyful and sacred moment for her in the beginning – turned into a three hour sob session, where her pillow was drenched in tears. Not tears of her own disappointment, but the disappointment of others. She was made to feel that her offering to the Lord just didn’t measure up. It took a little time for her to block out their words out of her mind and become centered in her own feelings again.

All I can say to that story is, First – Not cool. Second – Completely inaccurate way of thinking.

When my friend told me this story, she shared it with me to somewhat protect us when Drew opens his mission call. She didn’t want what happened to her daughter, to happen to Drew. Her word of warning made me rethink sharing this beautiful moment with others, because their reactions may be less than ideal.  I’m grateful that she was honest with me, because she confirmed a trend I had been noticing and what other parents had also shared with me.

I have a million people on my social media feeds. I get the honor of watching a lot of mission call openings.  If it is a foreign call, its met with cheers and loud screams of exhilaration. If it’s state side – I hate to even say this – but a lot of times its an awkward pause, followed by a few sharing a little “Woo hoo” condolence cheer. Now to be fair, there are some families and friends that ROCK being excited no matter what – so I need to put that out there too.

It merits the discussion though. The thing about culture – we use it to create beautiful traditions or we can use it to do unintended harm.

In an effort to course correct, I’ve taken some time to poll a ton of missionaries. Both in person and online.  Some were recently returned and some seasoned vets. Here is what I found: (and my commentary to these findings, lol)

1. Most Missionaries to varying degrees feel pressure to get a “good call” when opening that envelope. The excitement/acceptance of their peers and family is crucial. That weighs heavily in their own personal joy of the experience. This was less of an issue for older returned missionaries, but has become more prevalent because of social media.

2. “You’re not a real missionary.” – Missionaries expressed that getting called to the states has varying stigmas associated with it.

East and West Coast Missions being more desirable or more culturally accepted, especially when a foreign language was attached with it. Hence the “I was called to the California, Riverside Mission – Spanish Speaking” responses, in hopes that it validated their call more in the eyes of some.  State side Missionaries want it to be acknowledged that they can have just as foreign of an experience. Some may never speak English their whole mission, or even teach American whites at all.

The most stigma associated (and therefore highest experienced anxiety) were calls to Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada. Missionaries who served there say that often times they get the, “You’re not a real missionary” speech. Due to the high concentration of members, some view their mission is/must have been a cake walk. That the members line up all of their friends in front of the font and after taking a dip, have baptism dance offs. Missionaries serving in those states are pampered with dinners and gifts. To this I say – Lol! Are you for real? I am a ward missionary. Our missionaries work their tails off. They may get more meals than some other places in the world, but then those missionaries get more of something else.

The second most culturally “less desired” was a call to the Midwest. (Whaaaaaaaaat?!) I’m from Iowa dudes! Nebraska and Missouri are practically my close cousins. Craig served his mission in St. Louis! The Midwest ROCKS. It took an army of missionaries being called to the Nebraska, Omaha Mission to get me in that font. A years worth of people investing in me, one by one. Miracles happened, generations were changed. And now…look at that circle as it continues to grow, it’s crazy beautiful! And none of that happened abroad in some remote tropical location. It happened right in the middle of nowhere, Iowa. I am so grateful that my missionaries didn’t turn their nose up at their call, because of the expectations of others. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog post.

Some other Funny (and sad!) Utah Mission Call Misconceptions

– One Elder got called serve on temple square for part of his mission. He reported that he kept having to explain to people throughout his time there that he wasn’t slow or special needs. That he really got called there while being completely normal. Wait, Whaaaat? Elders aren’t special needs because they work on temple square. That’s disrespectful to anyone who is special needs and to anyone who isn’t. The work is the work, no matter who’s doing it, or what they are doing. 

– Only pretty Sisters get called to Temple Square, or any visitor center around the world for that matter.

Let’s just call this “debunked.” First, I haven’t ever met an ugly person. Not once in my life. Second, my friends daughter is gorgeous – (seriously, I don’t think I have seen a more beautiful human being on the planet.) She didn’t get a call to the visitors center, she got called to the Philippians and served the poorest of the poor. She tracted in the literal jungle. She would write home about living in a shack next to a pig slaughter house, and how she would hear the screams of the pig all day and night. Her sleeping conditions consisted of a foam pad on the floor, each night further mastering the skill of staying just awake enough to chuck huge spiders against the wall on instinct. Her testimony floored me. She had immeasurable depth and beauty, none of which had anything to do with her face. Sister Missionaries are warriors too – so much more than a pretty face. Please tell me we can give them a little more credit than being Barbies at the Church Visitor Centers. That’s laughable. The ones that get called to Temple Square and Visitor Centers throughout the world work just as hard as anyone else.

Here is the heart of the lesson friends,

Every time an 18-26 year decides to go on a mission, we know that at minimum almost two decades have been put into this moment in time, at huge sacrifice to both the missionary and the parents. On a daily basis, parents step away from the world and choose the harder road to raise their children in righteousness. As a mother of eight, I can attest that this is no small feat.

By the time most children are raised up in the gospel of Jesus Christ, he or she has attended:

988 Sunday Services
624 Weekly Activities
720 days of Seminary Attendance (for some kids that’s at 6am every morning)
12 Spiritual Summer Camps (that’s if they don’t go to EFY in addition to the normal ward or stake level camps)

At minimum, they have given hundreds if not thousands of hours of community service throughout their association with the church and held numerous leadership positions.

Young men and women have had ecclesiastical interviews every few months throughout their teenage years. Interviews that hold them accountable to gospel standards. Sometimes a great deal of repentance has been required to get back on track.

They’ve had countless leaders invest in them. A minimum of 120 people serving them per year since 18 months of age. Including bishops, counselors, primary leaders, youth leaders, seminary leaders, stake leaders, various teachers, etc.

The missionary has sacrificed greatly just to be worthy to go. They will sacrifice everything, when they go – Family, friends, school, work, holidays, and all the comforts of home. For the missionary and their family, that separation is brutal.
They are trading being loved, nurtured and celebrated at home for grueling 15 hour days of rejection, culture shock, loneliness and some days – complete despair. There are beautiful moments too of course, but lets be honest – it’s mostly hard. Like everything worth doing is.

Wanna know how many people are actually willing to give up a year or two of their lives to be a missionary? {to our church standard}

Current world population –  7.5 Billion*
Current Missionaries Serving – 70,946*

That means that in the world, at any given moment – there less than
one-ten thousandth of a percent of people are willing to do this work. (.00000945946 to be exact)

So I guess what I am saying is this…STOP MINIMIZING THEIR SACRIFICE. Sometimes – within in the culture of the church, we are so flippant about missions. We don’t give credit where credit is due. Like a mission is just something kids do, no biggie. I’m sorry, but this is HUGE! Maybe it’s because I am a convert, but I don’t understand this mentality. I know we should “beware of pride” and all that, but I think we take that a little too far. I think we are being aware of the wrong pride. We should be thrilled and verbally praising to our children who are in every sense WARRIORS. They fought their to be worthy to go and do the hardest things that can be asked of an 18-26 year old. That is a pretty impressive resume in my book. These kids are a pretty big deal, no matter where they serve (or in some cases, how long they serve, or if they serve in this way -but that’s a whole other box we will open on a different day.) The pride we should be aware of in our culture, is always feeling the need to put one thing above another. Like mission calls, or church calls, or people. If you have a spring in your step cause you are proud of yourself or your kid for doing a beautiful thing – that’s just as it should be. However if you feel your nose or arrogance rise when sharing your mission or your children’s mission, then there is some growth that needs to take place. There is no better than or less than. The pride should be in the WORK. Not the place.

We shouldn’t be saying anything to diminish what any of these missionaries have worked so hard to achieve. We need to stop making comments and jokes about certain places being horrible to get called to. I’m sorry, but are those souls living in the Intermountain West less in the sight of God? No, they aren’t.

As for me….I’m more of the “LOOK ERRRRYBODY! MY KID LOVES HIM/HER SOME JESUS!” kind of Mom. Not that I am arrogantly boastful, cause no one wants to hear that.  However, I do think it is important for our children to hear that we are proud of them. That we are thrilled at their choices and sacrifices. Acknowledgement of how far they’ve come in a world that teaches dramatically different values is vital. Come on, this is amazing!!!! It’s so beautiful and I can hardly talk about how proud I am of ALL of our kids without tears!

One thing that is incredible to note, every single missionary I have talked LOVED THEIR MISSION! Even if they felt some cultural pressure in the beginning, it didn’t take long before they knew it was where exactly where the Lord needed them.

So I say this to you missionaries – BE DANG PROUD!
Your contribution is irreplaceable. The work is just as sacred no matter where you go. You WILL have a foreign experience, no matter what. It will be different than how you grew up, what you have witnessed, etc. God’s gonna use your good heart for his sacred work. You’ve worked so hard to be here, and I am SO PROUD OF YOU. Shout your call out proudly. You’ve earned it.

BOTTOM LINE – You are called where YOU PROMISED. I believe that a long time ago, we all made promises. Promises to find each other. To help each other. To save each other. Jesus Christ is the only one that can atone for our sins, but if we are to truly live a Christ like life – saving each other to the degree of our capability is a vital part of our own earthly ministry. Sometimes saving each other is just a matter of showing up. Of loving and serving even the ones that aren’t ready for the truth. Love is the most vital thing you can give another human being. Do that and watch it change everything about yourself.

So I say ROCK ON CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS! Go where you promised! Love the ones your with! Be thrilled you have this beautiful chance to leave the world for two years and do only God’s work. It is the only time in your life you’ll get this chance, to this degree. Man…..I love you!

P.S. You can bet your bottom dollar that I’m gonna be screaming just as loud for Ogden, Utah as I would be for Scotland! Hurrah for Israel!