I spoke at an LDS women’s conference on Saturday on how embodying genuine aspects of our womanhood lifts us and others up. I thought about rewriting my talk into an essay for Meg in Progress, but decided against it. Because I wish each of you had been there. And I wish we could talk to one another across more than this screen. And finally, I really do think you are each beautiful and a blessing in my life.
Good morning, Sisters! I generally open my talks with a joke. Something just funny enough that the people listening will decide to forgive me if everything else that follows is jumbled and boring. This talk is a little different, I wrote most of it sitting in the hospital during the aftermath of my dad’s bone marrow transplant. It was written in a white room with black wires and metal rails. Not the stuff inspiration is generally made of, or so I thought. As I sat there, I tried to think of something funny. A real zinger, something to wake us all up in the morning. But over and over the only thing that came to mind was the vision of your beautiful faces. One row after another of choice daughters of God. And my goodness, the joy and awe of being in your company. Sisters, I felt it even as I sat all alone in a room I pray none of you ever have to enter.
So this talk will not begin with a joke. It begins with a thank you. Thank you for being lovely daughters of our Heavenly Father. The mere thought of you brought brightness and color to a time that had little. The existence of so many of you lifted me, even when most of you don’t know my name. (It’s Meg, by the way.)
This vision of your sweet faces and the effect it had on my spirits is a fitting way to begin, as today I will speaking about “lift”. What is lift? What does it mean to lift? And is it something that little, old me can actually do?
The principle of lift is an interesting one. Flight has been an object of man’s desire since he could look to the stars. However, for thousands of years mankind was always just a few simple insights away from understanding how to reach all those high places we wished to go. For centuries, great and small minds alike believed that, as ships float on the ocean, so birds flew in a sea of air. They hypothesized that in flight a bird’s wing looked much like a boat, curved on the bottom and flat on top. The exact opposite is true. In flight, the top of the wing is curved, while the bottom is flat. If you have been on a plane you can attest to this yourself. That curve on top, called camber, forces the air to flow more quickly and with less pressure over the wing. Because of the lack of pressure above the wing the plane is actually plucked up into the air. Lift is a phenomena waiting to occur, it simply needs to be allowed to happen.
Blah, blah, blah, physics. I am sure you are all thinking, “Man, she really should have begun with a joke”. I promise there is a point.
I don’t think you and I are all that different from my imaginary plane. We are all just a few insights away from a better understanding of how to allow the Lord to pluck us up into the air, to the high places we are meant to go.
Luckily, for you and me, we are women. And I think that the most effective way to let lift occur is by adhering to the most genuine aspects of our womanhood. I realize that the phrase “genuine aspects of womanhood” is a loaded one. You and I could sit here and discuss that concept for days. However, I was only allotted a few minutes. So I am going to discuss oh-so-briefly three women that embodied a few different aspects of womanhood and by doing so were able to lift themselves and those around them.
First Eve. The mother of all Living. A woman that has been hated and loved and mythologized till she seems too distant for us to really know. I wish this wasn’t so. Because in so many ways, what Eve did is no different from what many of us do every day. She was simply the first to do it.
Eve was a leader. In a paper called Patriarchy and Matriarchy, Hugh Nibley spends an entire paragraph praising Eve and her go-get-it attitude. He says, “So who was the more important? Eve is the first on the scene, not Adam, who woke up only long enough to turn over to fall asleep again; and then when he really woke up he saw the woman standing there, ahead of him, waiting for him… In all that follows she takes the initiative, pursuing the search for ever greater light and knowledge while Adam cautiously holds back. Who was the wiser for that?…The first daring step had to be taken. It was an act of disobedience for which someone had to pay, and she accepted the responsibility…And had she been so foolish? It is she who perceives and points out to Adam that they have done the right thing after all. Sorrow, yes, but she is willing to pass through it for the sake of knowledge—knowledge of good and evil that will provide the test and the victory for working out their salvation as God intends. It is better this way than the old way; she is the progressive one. She had not led him astray…”
Sister’s, we are leaders. In our communities, in our church, in our homes. As daughters of God, leading the pursuit of ever greater light and knowledge is our heritage and our birthright.
Eve was a homemaker. The first homemaker. She went out into the wilderness and created a sanctuary out of brambles and bark for the man she loved and the children they shared. Now be honest me, after the wedding and the reception, didn’t it feel a bit like you had been cast out into the wilderness. A big wide world and just the two of you? And still you managed to create a sanctuary for your family. Only rather than brambles and bark it was made out of a basement apartment right next to the creamery.
Eve worked to impose order in a world that had little. And my darling sisters, you do this every day. With every load of laundry, all those washed dishes, each memo at the office and new spring garden. You each have the courage to wake up every morning and make the world more of what it should be. And that does take courage, because you know you will just have to do it all again tomorrow.
Sisters, the beginning of our world was rooted in much of what you do every day. If that doesn’t add meaning to your next Relief Society Meeting, I don’t know what will.
Born in 1828, Emmeline B. Wells was one of the most dynamic sisters of LDS history. She was on the forefront of the woman suffrage movement, traveled the world shouting equality, wrote beautiful poetry and was called as the fifth general Relief Society President of the LDS church at the ripe old age of 82. As one writer said, “She was at once a family woman and an ambitious professional, a sentimental poet and a pragmatic businesswoman, a romantic and a realist.” Sister Wells was the kind of woman that realized that we are here to do a great work and she dug in with her sleeves rolled up.
Emmeline was self-sufficient. She lost three husbands and spent more of her life responsible for the bread on her families table than not. She realized that work was a blessing. And my, was her life blessed. I know the women in this community. I have seen you can and work and bake and save and sew. I have watched you hold down two jobs while raising your children with love and patience. I have seen you pursue education and career with a clear vision of your future. You are a self-sufficient people.
Emmeline was confident. This was a woman that knew what she wanted from a very young age. Looking back on her childhood she said, “Was it under the hemlock boughs or ’neath the hardy old oak,” that I sat “with proud ambition burning in my soul, ambition to be great and known to fame, when a gentle whisper came. … ‘There is no excellence without labor.’ ” She was unafraid of the gifts the Lord gave her. Once, poet and activist Eliza R. Snow asked Emmeline to write an article on a particular subject. It was a request that would have left me shaking in my boots. Not Emmeline. She hoped she would be able to please Eliza but also admitted, “For my own part, I would not be at all afraid [to write what I wanted], I love this kind of work.”
Sisters, I would like to see more of this attitude in our ranks. You were made by the same hand that shaped the stars. He made each of you INDIVIDUALLY for an INDIVIDUAL purpose. Our dear Sister Wells understood that so exquisitely and that understanding allowed the Lord to work through her so grandly.
In 1697, a little girl was born in a little village outside of Cothen, Germany. Nobody knows who her parents were and nobody knows how she spent her days. There is no record of serpents or world altering decisions or lofty ambitions. Over three hundred years later we only know three things about her. Her name was Katharina Amalia Dorothea Von Schlegel. She spent much of her life in a nunnery. And she wrote 29 hymns, including Be Still, My Soul. I imagine she wrote that hymn after a day like any other day and never thought it would be sung outside of her hometown, let alone outside of her lifetime. She could not know the comfort it would bring to the millions that have turned to it in times of need. She could not see the broken hearted mothers it would calm or the worried daughter sitting in a white hospital room it gave peace.
Katharina listened to the Lord. She felt the grandness of his voice in her quiet life, she knew the power of inspiration, and could attest to the joy of being an instrument of the Lord.
Sisters, you do not know the power of a quietly inspired act on a day like any other day. Perhaps it will be the creation of a hymn that is sung for hundreds of years. But it is more likely to be an act of service for the family within your own walls, the neighbor down the street or a stranger at the store. Just as Katharina did not know her hymn would be sung in Utah 316 years after her birth, you do not know how your actions will echo through time.
Alright. So we have spoken about Eve, you know, the Mother of all Living. And we have talked about Emmeline B Wells, a woman that could raise a baby, bake a pie and write pro-woman manifestos with her eyes closed. And we’ve visited Katharina Von Schlegel, writer of the hymn that soothed a million hearts. All well and good, but perhaps a bit difficult to live up to… I mean my kids think the only way to make chicken soup is with three cups of water and two top ramen packets. Not exactly the stuff of which greatness is made.
If you are anything like myself, you may find yourself asking, “What about little, unremarkable me?”
My dear, dear sisters. I want to impress on you that each of these women, each so different, each so lovely were made of the same stuff as beautiful, blessed you. We were each made to be lifted. You are shaped for it just as surely as the bird’s wing. And yes, some of us will do it on the world’s stage and some will do it in the quiet moments of our lives, but each one of us can and will reach the same great heights.
I would like to bear my testimony today. Our Heavenly Father knows you intimately. Every bright spot and every flaw. He knows your hopes and he knows your depths. And He rejoices in you. He loves you. And He is just waiting – anxiously, anxiously waiting – for that moment when He can lift you to the places you are meant to be.
I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Also? I learned how to do a craft. Groundbreaking, I know.
A few things I learned this week.
A long drive can be made to seem shorter when there is a little surprise at the end of it. We drove home from California a couple of weeks ago. The girls held it together for most of the drive. However, I was ready to stop by the time we got to Vegas and call The Strip home. Our new depressing, neon colored home.
Three bags of Haribo gummy bears and two Jack in the Box stops later we pulled up to the house. And there sitting on our doorstop was a lovely package from LA Bumble Bee, two little candles that smell like Spring. And my goodness, after a 10 hour drive to a house that still felt like the flu we had left behind the week before…it was exactly what I needed.
Four isn’t as bad as three but it is still a wild ride. Zuzu at three years old was a tornado of emotion. Ups and downs and flips and turns and tantrums the size of the winning pumpkin at the Georgia State Fair. Four has been more predictable. There are three good weeks for every bad one. And my oh my – those weeks are a joy. A blissful bomb of happy and sweet and MOMMY, I LOVE YOU!This week was a bad one. Bad like she spends twenty minutes looking at a wall instead of saying “please” and I threaten to take away Christmas three seasons before it happens.
My goodness. I am ready for those three good weeks.
And finally. Since Eve, women have proven time and time again that there is no mold they can’t break or set of expectations they can’t exceed. Stereotypes and clichés are for the weak minded. That being said…there are few things that a piece of chocolate can’t make better. Like when one child won’t sleep and the other won’t budge and your dad is going back in the hospital and syrup spilled under the fridge where no mop or cleaning rag will venture and your jeans aren’t fitting and suddenly you are struck by the thought that maybe Pretty in Pink was overrated as a movie and if that is the case what does that say about your adolescent development and…. And then you take a breath have a piece of some sea salt chocolate and realize that any day that can hold the lovely combination of fleur de sel and 60% dark cacao can’t be that bad of a day.
Here’s to a weekend full of chocolate. And love. And skirts that fit because who needs those damn jeans anyways.
When we are not posing for professional photos we are generally covered in yogurt and the residue of toddler tantrums.
Recently, Seek Company asked to interview me for a series they do called “Everyday Brilliance”. I try to associate myself with the word “brilliance” whenever possible, so of course I complied. (I kid, I kid. But really.) Seek Company is business that sets out to translate the brand-to-buyer relationship into a human-to-human one. They lead ethnographic immersions and deliver multi-media storytelling. They believe that each consumer has a story to tell and they set out to get it told.
Naturally, now I want to work for them when I grow up.
And now…the interview….
Hello Meg! We’re so glad to get to chat a bit on the topic of everyday brilliance. We spend a fair amount of time combing the internet everyday, seeking to learn from others that have a different view on life than we do. When we stumbled across your blog, Meg In Progress, we knew we needed to get inside your head a bit more.
Q: First off, tell us a bit about who you are, what you do, and why you’re part of the online community at large.
A: I believe every day has a spark of the transcendent. However, it is easy to forget all that lovely, transcendent business when I am covered in spit up and both of my kids are screaming. Writing helps me to remember.
Q: What about the practice of writing helps you to remember that “every day has a spark of the transcendent?”
A: I truly believe there is power in moments of quiet and reflection. When I sit down to write, I am able to view my day as an observer. There are so many lessons and bright sparkling moments we miss when we are in the midst of reacting to or against them. Writing about each day forces me to acknowledge those moments must be there and sends me on a search to find them.
Q: In the midst of the mundane, what keeps you curious? What practices do you have in place? What tips do you have for us?
A: Oh curiosity! The cause and the cure of all my curiosity lies in reading good books and reading them often. I think the world is waiting for us –practically begging- us to discover it. My greatest discoveries (and often the greatest ones are the simplest truths) come to me on days when I have read well and taken myself outside. Go on long walks. Read good books. Rinse. Repeat.
Q: In your post entitled, The Whole Wide World, you talk about this marvelous experience of reading a book on Pompeii as a kid, and you remark, “everything had changed.” Well, we strive to have experiences with people that change how we see brands and products. What advice do you have for our teams as they head to the field, and need to have those “everything had changed” moments?
A: I think the most important thing to remember is that, at our core, most people are really very much the same. We want to know we have value. We want to know we have a place. We want to know who we are. Once we realize what we have in common, I think it is easier to understand and accept all the political, cultural and lifestyle differences that seem so unfamiliar.
Q: You talk of showing the world to your little girls, in the midst of the mundane. What helps you bring these everyday moments of brilliance to their awareness?
A: Sometimes it is as simple as pointing out the flashes of brilliance in the moments they occur. A little shout of “Oh my goodness, girls! This is special! Can you see this is special?” However, more often than not, it is them showing me. It happens daily, like when they ask me to count the stars or twirl with them in the middle of a crowded park. By participating in their natural awe, even when it makes me look ridiculous, I am validating their point of view. It is a lovely thing, teaching little girls that their wonder is absolutely valid one twirl at a time.
Q: How has being a mom helped you to see the “spark of the transcendent?”
A: Do you have a few hours? Being a mother has taken everything and frosted it in possibility. Yes, there are plenty of days when life seems constricted by laundry and dinner making yet again. But then there is the first time my youngest smiled or the day Zuzu finally learned how to write an R. I know those are simple things. But that smile, that crooked ‘R’ and every other little triumph and lesson are as close as I’ve gotten to seeing the infinite workings behind this thing we call life. Unfettered joy and the age old pursuit of higher knowledge all bottled up in a regular old Thursday? How could that not change my life for the better and the deeper?
Because my life looks like this never.
Some days are absolutely painted rainbow fantastic. Other days, you unwittingly walk around with egg in your hair from the breakfast your one year old threw at you. Just a scrambled tidbit that sits atop your head until four o’clock when the nice old lady in the grocery line plucks it out and hands it to you. Mmmm. Crunchy. This post is for those other days. The hours that are long and would be made better by a little color, a treat, a trip from the ordinary. The days that need a tiny something to help you remember it is good to be here, even when you are covered in day old egg. Maybe especially when you are covered in day old egg.
5 Ways to Treat Yourself Under $5
1. Buy a lovely card, fill it with pretty words and give it to a good friend.
When I am dulled by the doldrums, being unexpectedly kind to someone is the fastest way to make myself feel better. There is something healing and exciting about looking out of oneself for the happiness of someone else. So I take myself to the cutest local store and buy their most expensive single card. Then I think good thoughts and use a good pen to write them all down for someone I know very well or hardly at all. I love leaving a crisp envelope with looping writing in a mailbox, just waiting to be discovered. It is hard to feel worthless when you have a made a difference in someone else’s day. Even if that difference can fit into a little blue envelope.
2. Get yourself some red lipstick. Wear it like you mean it.
Kate by Rimmel London. Just under $5 at Walmart.
Oh the healing power of drugstore lipstick!
A woman with red lips is the kind of woman that can pick up the pieces of a day and make it what she needs it to be. She is the kind of woman that does not let circumstance dictate her outlook. She is the kind of woman that knows tomorrow is another day. I know what you are thinking…All of that from a tube of red goop? To which I reply,
The Alison Show has a fantastic piece on The Best Drugstore Lipsticks. This woman knows what she is talking about. If I were you, I would listen to her.
3. Bring home a succulent, pot it in an empty salsa container, marvel at your awesomeness.
Lovely succulent in a can idea from Cake.
There is something delightfully renewing about introducing a new plant to your same old space. I love succulents because they will survive under the harshest conditions (ahem, my ever loving care) and are small enough to add to any space. And you can find them for as low as $2 a piece.
4.Buy a chocolate bar of luxurious provenance.
Okay. Confession. This is my favorite chocolate bar and it rings in at an astounding $12. I know. But! Finding myself in possession of a Mast Brothers chocolate is a rare thing, indeed. I generally make one chocolate bar last for three days. And if my 2nd grade math skills serve me right, that is a mere $4 a day. So….under $5? Ahem. The point here is that it is a little luxury just for you. Any chocolate that you think is nice enough to hide from your children will do here. When the kids are screaming and the house is a mess, break off a piece of a cacao masterpiece, lock yourself in the bathroom and let that chocolate melt in your mouth. A few moments of transport. Dearly bought and dearly deserved.
5. Purchase a new song. Go on a drive. Play on repeat.
The power of music! The joy of a well written ballad, bad 90′s pop and hipster bluegrass fusion. Roll the windows down, turn the volume up and sing until there isn’t any room for insecurities, bad feelings or maybe-I-should-haves. My current favorite for long drive rock outs is an oldie but goodie by Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Medicine. Oh, sing it Grace baby.
Of course, succulents and discount lipstick can only go so far. Sometimes the fastest way to get over a bad day is to remember there is a tomorrow. And that it will be brighter than today because it can be.
These tights were supposed to bring on the spring. It didn’t work.
A few things I learned this week.
Love is an ever expanding never dividing sort of thing. When Riley drove me to the hospital to have our Viola I cried into the cold window. I was so afraid of not loving this new little girl the way that I loved her sister. Nearly a year and half later and I am so far removed from that fear I can’t even understand it from a distance. Viola is all smiles and sweet and don’t make a wrong move because she will bite your finger off…really. She knocks me over with her big smile and “HI GUYS!” when I walk into a room and picks me back up again with sloppy kisses and neck nuzzles. She has my whole heart and Zuzu has my whole heart and every day (even the hard ones) I thank the Lord for the room He has made inside of me for each of them.
There is no such thing as a good homemade pastrami sandwich. Not unless you brine your own meat and own an industrial meat slicer or happen to live behind the counter of a NY based Jewish deli. (A Jewish deli is one of my top ten dream places to live by the way. You know, a little cottage situated between the rye and homemade pickles). While we were California we went to The Hat for a late night bite. As far as pastrami goes The Hat provides a meat that ranks maybe a 7 out of 10. But it was good enough. And now I am in Utah, a pastrami desert. And it hurts. And I am hungry.
Sometimes what you are doing really is just enough and you have to be willing to let go of everything else. My life is full right now, bursting with the bitter and the sweet. I feel keenly every possibility I let tumble by, every friend that deserves a call and every moment that wasn’t the way it could have been. My house is dusty and my children are generally messy. I haven’t made cookies with my babies since the fall. Riley leaves work tired and comes to a home that still needs laundry done and the calmness of his bigger hands. I am tired.
After a good conversation with a better friend this last week I decided to make peace with this season of my life.
I am doing what I can do and (for the most part) I am doing it with a smile.
And maybe right now, that really is enough.
Here’s to a weekend of love for you and yours.
All photos are from this weeks ever exciting instagram feed. Find me @Meg_in_Progress!