Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Women in the Scriptures Challenge

A few years ago I started keeping a notebook of all the women I found in the scriptures.

I kept track of all the named women, unnamed women, references to women, any mention of wombs, breast, menstruation or any other reference to women's bodies and functions. Reading the scriptures through the lens of women completely changed my perspective and understanding of the scriptures. I use to dread personal scripture study and sometimes even fell asleep during it... gasp, you've never done that have you? I had a hard time relating to the stories, especially in the Old Testament, but when I discovered the women in the stories a whole new world opened up to me.

I realized that these women lived lives not too different from mine, they struggled, fought, cried, doubted, bore children, breastfed, loved men passionately, and most importantly... they lived. They were real women who had real struggles and learned important lessons that were unique to women. I no longer fall asleep during scripture study but am excited every day to discover a new woman and a new story that I can relate to. I understand now the wisdom behind what Nephi said when he told us to "liken the scriptures" unto ourselves (1 Ne. 19: 23-24).

In view of this I have issued a standing challenge for all my readers... The Women in the Scripture Challenge... if you are super brave and daring you can take the Full Challenge or if you are semi-brave and somewhat daring you can take the Half challenge.

The Full Challenge

1) In the next year (ideally) read the ENTIRE standard works, Old and New Testaments, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. You don't necessarily have to start with the Old Testament you can start in wherever book you like. You can even just start from where you are in your personal scripture study right now.

2) Keep a journal of all the women you find mentioned, this includes named and unnamed women. This should be a journal just dedicated to women in the scriptures. Hint... it will probably be much bigger than you think it needs to be. 

2a) If you don't want to keep a journal another option is to mark your scriptures with the same color whenever you find  stories or references to women. Here is how I have marked mine in case you need a visual example.

3) In this journal write down questions, thoughts or inspirations that come to you as you read about these women's lives. Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself when you discover a new woman.

4) Let God teach you new truths about what it means to be a daughter of God.

The Half Challenge

This challenge is the same as the full challenge except that you aren't undertaking the entire standard works. Pick one book of scripture and read it from start to finish specifically looking for women and their stories. Write each one down in a scripture journal and record what you learn-- or mark them in your scriptures.

By far the Old Testament has the most women but it is also the longest. The New Testament has some remarkable women that I'm sure most people haven't ever heard about. The Book of Mormon will surprise you with how many women you'll find. The Doctrine and Covenants might disappoint you-- it is a book of revelations not a history book like the other books. The Pearl of Great Price has some amazing stories of women that will boggle your mind.

The Half Challenge could easily turn into a Full Challenge... or at least a 3/4 challenge... once you get rolling.

Are you brave enough?

If you decide you are brave enough to accept this challenge then grab this button and stick in on your blog, or wherever you like, to remind you that you are committed.

Women in the Scriptures

When you've completed the challenge-- either the full or the half-- I would love to hear about your experience and what you've learned.

This journey is one that should be shared.

I can bear testimony that embarking on this challenge in any way will dramatically alter your perspective of the scriptures. You will find women, stories, and eternal truths that you didn't even know existed. They will literally jump out at you from the pages. You may also come to realize more fully what it means to be a child of God and and feel more deeply God's love for all His daughters.

If taken with faith and prayer this challenge could possibly be a life changing event.

Is that bold of me to say?

Take the challenge and find out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Importance of Birth

One of the things I've noticed as I've studied the scriptures is that birth is an over arching theme in the stories of the women in the scriptures. A good portion of the stories about women in the scriptures center around women's ability to bear, or inability to bear, children.

Personally, the births of my children have been incredible spiritual experiences for me and have completely changed my outlook on life and eternity. I've gained great spiritual strength through the birth process and a closer relationships with my Heavenly Father and Mother. As I've reflected on my own experiences and as I read about the important role birth plays in the lives of the women of the scriptures I am prompted to believe the ability to give life is a central part of what it means to be an eternal woman and that the birth process is incredibly important to God.

A friend pointed out that in the Proclamation to the Family it says, "We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed." The means by which mortal life is created is through the processes of conception, pregnancy and birth. It stands to reason that if God designed the way children are conceived to be deeply and powerfully symbolic of a man and a woman becoming "one flesh" (Genesis 2 :24) then He has also designed the way children are born into this world to be deeply and powerfully symbolic.

In order to understand the symbolism and meaning behind labor and birth, and to understand why so many of the stories of women in the scriptures center around birth, we have to go back to Eve and the Garden.

Two Trees

When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden he planted two trees, the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. He told Adam and Eve that there would be consequences if they ate of the tree of knowledge but ".... nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee;" (Moses 3:17)

We know that Eve exercised the agency God had given her and chose to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Through modern day revelation we know that what we she did was for the benefit of mankind and that by partaking of the fruit she was fulfilling her divine mission as a woman. In his talk "What It Means to Be a Daughter of God" James E. Faust said:

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve... The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood. . . . If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here."
Eve was fulfilling her divine purpose when she partook of the tree of knowledge. From the foundations of the world she had been chosen and named as "the mother of all living" and she knew that in order to fulfill her mission she must partake of the fruit and become like God. She also knew that she wouldn't be able to fulfill her divine role without Adam's help and so she got Adam to partake of the fruit. The scriptures don't say she had to deceive or trick Adam into eating it, rather it seems that Adam "hearkened" unto his wife and agreed to the transgression so that Eve would be able to fulfill her divine calling.

Just as Eve was set apart to be the "mother of all living" from the foundations of the world, Adam was set apart to be the great High Priest of the earth with the responsibility to hold the keys and perform the saving ordinances that would bring the children of God back into His presence. Joseph Smith taught:
" The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity… Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next... the priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained... it in the Creation, before the world was formed” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 157–58)
Adam hearkened first to Eve's divine mission and now, as Adam and Eve progress through their probationary time (Genesis 3: 22, 24), it is Eve's turn to hearken to Adam. God has designed a beautiful partnership in which Adam helps Eve fulfill her mission to bring God's children into the world; after which it is Eve's turn to hearken and help Adam fulfill his mission to bring those children unto Christ, the tree of life, and back into God's presence.

I don't think that it is any coincidence that God placed two people, male and female, in the garden and also planted two trees in the garden... two people, two trees, two divine responsibilities.

Two Veils

While the trees which God planted in the Garden of Eden have multiple levels of meaning one way in which they may be interpreted is as representing the two veils that all mankind must pass through on their journey towards exaltation.

The first veil that all mankind passes through is the veil of birth in which man is born into the world by water, blood and the spirit. Women have a stewardship over this first veil. When Eve partook of the tree of knowledge she became more like God, knowing good from evil and gaining the capacity to bear children. Eve's transgression "opened the matrix", as it says in Exodus 34:19, the womb, the gateway through which the souls of all mankind would pass through into the mortal world. The only possible way to enter this mortal world is through the body of a woman and by the shedding of her blood... there is no other way.

The second veil is the veil we must pass through in order to re-enter the presence of God and continue on our eternal journey. Men have a stewardship over this second veil. Just like Adam, righteous men hold the priesthood keys and administer the ordinances which cleanse us from our sins and enable us to come back into the presence of God. Just like the first veil, the second veil requires a sacrifice of blood, water and spirit. Through His Atonement Jesus Christ performed this great and last sacrifice for all mankind. Just as women are the only gateways into the mortal world, Christ is the only gateway into the eternal world... there is no other way.
These two veils are described in Moses 6: 59 which reads:

"That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;"
It is also interesting to note, and personally I don't think it is any coincidence, that the mother's side of the placenta (the organ the mother's body creates to house the baby and sustain its life) looks like a tree (for a bloody picture click here and for a non-bloody picture click here). The "fruit" of this placental tree is a baby.

This is Eve's gift to us... the promise of birth. That through our mothers, the daughters of Eve, all of God's children will partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and literally become the fruit of that tree. Through the power of God they will be born into this world through blood, water and the spirit and will be given a probationary time. During this probationary time it is the role of mothers and fathers to help their children to become worthy to pass through the second veil, the tree of life, through the water, blood, and spirit of Jesus Christ. This is Adam's gift to us---as the High Priest of this earth acting in authority for Jesus Christ--- the promise of re-birth.
In his talk "Equality Through Diversity" Elder M. Russell Ballard explained:
Our Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when we lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters. To His sons He would give the priesthood and the responsibilities of fatherhood, and to His daughters He gave the responsibilities of motherhood, each with its attendant functions.

The creation of the world, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter days through the Prophet Joseph Smith all have one unifying purpose: to allow all of the spirit children of our Eternal Father to obtain mortal bodies, and then, through the gift of moral agency, to follow the plan of redemption made possible by the Savior’s atonement. God prepared all of this for us that we might return to our heavenly home, clothed in immortality and eternal life, to live with Him as families.
Two Divine Stewardships

I've often heard women express pain over the fact the LDS church (and most religions in general) are so male centered-- only men hold the priesthood keys, there are much fewer women in the scriptures than men, and while we know we have a Heavenly Mother we don't hear much about her. These are questions that eat away at many LDS women's (and men's) hearts and make it hard for some of them to remain true to their faith. Yet when we remember that we have already passed through the first veil, over which women preside, and are now working towards the second veil, over which men preside, it makes much more sense why our world is so male centered. 

Besides, who knows, if we could only glimpse into the pre-mortal world and see the other side of the veil would we see a world which was very female centered because the focus is on preparing children to go through the first veil? Would we see women (and men) working with their Heavenly Mother to prepare souls of mankind to receive their mortal bodies, teaching them their pre-mortal lessons, and guiding them to their earthly homes? Maybe.

We really don't know much about the pre-mortal world. Yet one thing we do know is that before we were born we received instruction that would prepare us for our individual labors in the Lord's vineyard. In D&C 138: 56 we read about the "noble and great ones" and how, "Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men." 

Given how incredible it is that women's bodies are able to create complete human beings, without their minds directing how it will happen, it seems possible to me that part of the "first lessons" women received in the pre-mortal world was how to create bodies. While their mortal minds don't remember how to do it, perhaps their eternal spirits do and it is a woman's eternal soul which directs and guides her body in the construction of the baby and oversees the process of labor and birth.
We also know that in the pre-mortal existence that Satan and a third of the host of heaven rejected God's plan to come to earth and receive mortal bodies (D&C 29:36). Because they were not faithful in keeping their first estate Satan and his third are the only ones out of God's children that will never pass through the first veil; no woman will ever create a body for them or shed her blood by bearing them into the world, nor will they ever have wives or children. This is one of the reasons that many of Satan's tactics are directed at women and at the structure which protects and guards the first veil... the family. Satan is doing everything in his power to convince women that their bodies, which are the gateway through the first veil, are dirty, ugly, imperfect, dysfunctional and of no importance. He is doing everything he can to distract and confuse women so that they abandon their responsibility as the guardians of life into this world. If he can destroy women's faith in their bodies and help them lose sight of the importance of the first veil---and the power and sanctity of conception, pregnancy and birth--- then he is well on his way to thwarting God's plan.

Satan is also trying to convince women that men's stewardship over the second veil is more important than their stewardship over the first veil and their role as what Valerie Hudson Cassler calls "the caretakers of light", referring to the great work that women do as mothers towards pointing children towards the light and love of Christ. In her book "Women in Eternity, Women of Zion" Cassler says:
"... there is a sequence to the stewardships which leads to misperception of the absolute equality of the stewardship. The caretakers of light, in their work as mothers, must perform their work for an individual before the caretakers of the Word [referring to men's riesthoof ordinance responsibility]... Because of this fact, the full drama of the work of the caretakers of light is muted. We don't see how some accepted the offering made by the caretakers of light, and thus the sacrifice of the caretakers of light seems common. Their very sacrifice in their work as mothers is concealed because of its perceived commonness. Pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding are concealed as far as their full drama and their full glory are concerned. The sacrifice of blood and water--- sometimes even the very sacrifice of life itself by the caretaker of light-- is usually not seen by the family or the community, but rather by a birth professional- a doctor or a midwife.

... We no longer see the drama and we value less the gateway and the sacrifice that brought us here. Even the caretakers of light themselves begin to view their works as mothers as ordinary, menial and dirty instead of the glorious stewardship it really is. Only young children seem to recognize the importance of the work of the caretakers of light and reward it with complete devotion." (pg, 149)

Women's stewardship over the gateway of life and their roles as mother's is not less important in the plan of salvation than the priesthood ordinance, the re-birth, work men do. God has given both men and women great gifts and powers which must be respected and used with wisdom and righteousness. I believe that how women birth and how children come into this world matters deeply to God. I feel that He expects the processes of conception, pregnancy and birth to be treated with the same type of reverence and faith with which we approach priesthood ordinances. I also believe that He expects women to protect their wombs, honor their ability to give life, and to participate in cultural and medical practices which bear witness to the divinity and power of women's bodies and the birth process.

God has different plans for each of His children and each is a unique spirit so it makes sense that each child's birth will be different, each woman's body will be different, and every situation will be different. Yet no matter what the situation women can counsel with God and receive direct revelation concerning their bodies, their pregnancy, their labor and their birth. There are numerous examples of women in the scripture who turned to God to understand how, when and why they were going to give birth and God answered them with direct revelation. These birth stories are some of the few examples we have of women receiving personal and direct revelation from God. I believe that they teach us that God is very interested in birth and in the experiences women have while giving birth. 

I also know from my own experience birthing my children that no child comes into this world unaccompanied and that God sends angels to be with them as they enter this world. I also know that God sends angels to laboring women to help them as they birth His children into the light of the world. The veil is thin for a woman in labor and if she is listening she is able to feel the power of God in an incredibly powerful way. For a few hours she becomes a wide open portal into heaven, foreordained from the foundations of the world to bring the children of heaven into this mortal world. What a great blessing it is that God has such faith in His daughters to entrust them with such a great power! It is just another testament to me that God loves His daughters just as much as He loves His sons and that they both have divine gifts which make His work possible.

It is important to note the the idea of the two trees and two veils originated with Valerie Hudson Cassler in her book "Women in Eternity, Women of Zion" . If you'd like to read more about her ideas visit this excellent post

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Mary Felt

Tonight I am singing a solo at our church Christmas dinner for the adults. I am terrified. I've never sung by myself... ever. I think I'd rather speak in front of a million people than sing in front of 50, but I need to sing this song.

The woman in charge of the program called me a few days ago and said that she'd been thinking about me for awhile and felt strongly that she should ask me to sing a certain song for the Christmas program. I was kind of surprised because we have several incredible, I repeat incredible, singers and musicians in our church. Then I heard the song she wanted me to sing and I knew exactly why she wanted me to sing it.

The song is called "What Mary Felt" by Wanda Lindstrom (if you'd like to hear it you can hear a preview here or spend 99 well spent cents to download it.)

The song is the story of a woman who is asked to let her baby play the part of Jesus in the Nativity. As she watches her son symbolically play the part of baby Jesus she reflects, "Is this what Mary felt when she was chosen to be the blessed mother of the Lord? And did she ever feel that heavy burden, when she had to give him up to save the world?

It is a powerful song with a deep message and happens to be written for a low alto... perfect. It is also perfect for me, not only because I have a new baby, but because my son was born not long before Christmas and throughout his pregnancy, labor and birth I felt such a sisterhood to Mary. Not only was I amazed that she went anywhere on a donkey at nine months pregnant... that in itself makes her an incredible woman in my eyes... but I realized what a great sacrifice she made by being willing to sacrifice her son for the sins of the world. As I held my own first born son in my arms I reflected on the great joy and sorrow she must have felt on holding Jesus in her arms. Did her heart rejoice knowing who he was and what he would become? Did it break when she thought of what he would suffer and what would be required of him?

I wrote this is a previous post about Mary and it still captures my feeling about Mary exactly:
"We often talk about how much God loves us because He was willing to sacrifice His son, but Jesus was Mary's son just as much as He was God's son. What great love Mary must have had for all human souls to be willing to offer her son as a sacrifice for all our sins. What a magnificent and amazing woman she must have been. One can only imagine how her soul must have rejoiced at what glorious blessings awaited the world, but how at the same time her heart must have broken into pieces knowing what she knew her son would have to suffer. My soul rejoices in her and I will be forever grateful to this magnificent and beautiful woman for all her sacrifices and the immensity of her love."
Tonight as I sing I am going to try to keep an image of her holding her newborn son in her arms, crying with joy and sorrow because of the gift God has given her. I hope I'll be able to transmit some of her great love across through my singing.

I'm still terrified.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Not Good for Man to be Alone..."

I took Advanced Placement (A.P.) Physics when I was in High School. The first semester there were about 15 girls in the class,but by the second semester there were only four of us left. It was a hard class. To this day I'm not quite sure what compelled me to stick it out, but I did. One day, a few days into the semester, the teacher took us four girls aside and thanked us for being in his class. He said that some years he didn't have any girls stick it out to the second semester and that those years were always the hardest. He said, "The dynamics of the class are different when it is all boys. It gets kind of rough. It changes things completely to have girls in the class."

I've been thinking a lot about what my physics teacher said because I just finished reading "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. The story is about a group of boys, ages 6-12, who get stranded on an island by themselves. Things start out fine but by the end of the book everything is out of control and they are hunting and killing one another. It is a powerful commentary on human nature and the condition of our world today. While there are many interesting ideas brought up in the book the main thing I was struck by in this book is that these boys are "girl-less"; there isn't one girl or woman on the entire island. I couldn't help but wonder how different the story would have turned out if there had been a female presence on the island. Would just having girls in the mix have, like my physics teacher said, changed everything?

I'm inclined to think it would have.

Remember that not long after creating Adam and placing him in Eden God states "... It is not good that the man should be alone..." (Genesis 2:18). God then creates Eve whom He describes as a "help meet" or a "an aid or helper worthy of Adam" (James M. Harper, 1990). God doesn't leave Adam alone in the world by himself very long because there wouldn't have been anything for Adam to do there by himself except pet the animals and swim in the rivers. Adam needed Eve in order to fulfill his purpose on this earth and likewise Eve needed Adam to fulfill her purpose. Without each other they would have been nothing and God's work would never have gone forth. There is a beautiful balance created when men and women are equally paired and when they are working on a common goal. Neither man or woman is complete, in a spiritual sense, without one another.

The other thought I had when I was reading "Lord of the Flies" was that one of the reasons the world we live in now is so full of violence, inequality and hatred is because some people are trying to live as if women don't exist or that they aren't important. There are places in the world where women's voices and freedoms are smothered and silenced; places where women don't have the right to make their own choices concerning their bodies, their marriages, their children, or their futures. These women are living in a world that doesn't value them or care about what they have to contribute as individuals. If it wasn't for the fact that women can be sexual objects and can bear children they may as well not exist as far as some men are concerned. These men are trying to live as if it was good for man to be alone... just as long as he is able to use the women every so often to get children.

This type of attitude wasn't what God intended for relationships between men and women to become. God's great work will not be done by men only, nor by women only, but by men and women working together as equal partners. Satan knows this and he is doing everything in his power to convince men that they don't need women and women that they don't need men.This is a great lie and I feel it is one of the main reasons our world so closely resembles the Hellish type of society the boys in "Lord of Flies" created for themselves.

I feel strongly that if we are ever going to create a Zion like world, one in which there is no violence, inequality or hatred, men and women are going to have to remember that they need one another and that they are equals before God. We need the talents and gifts of both men and women to accomplish God's work. We will never heal our world if men continue to exclude women from their social, political and spiritual arenas and if women begin to do the same. Such a future looks bleak; not much different from the hopeless situation the boys in "Lord of the Flies" found themselves in or the rough state of an A.P physics class without girls.

It is not good for man to be alone. It is not good for woman to be alone. We need each other... desperately.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Praise for "Women of the Old Testament"

Camille Fronk Olsen was the professor I took a course on "Women in the Scriptures" from at BYU. The semester I was in her class she was just starting her research for a book on women in the scriptures. She recruited us, her students, to help her do research on different women. I chose to research Deborah. It was an incredible assignment and is what really lit my passion for women in the scriptures. Without that class I probably wouldn't be writing this blog.

So imagine my excitement when I saw that her book "Women of the Old Testament" has just been published by Deseret Book! Not to mention my glee when I saw that my name is in the acknowledgments as one of the students who helped with her research. Seeing your name in print is always a bit exhilarating.

I know I am biased but I think this book is wonderful. It has in-depth insights, facts, maps and time lines for about 20 women from the Old Testament. Even though it is written by an LDS author and has some LDS perspectives I think that it would be a great book for anyone, of any religion, who wants to know more about the lives and the history of the women in the Old Testament. It would make a great companion book for personal scripture study or for use in a Sunday school class. From what I've heard I think she is planning on publishing a book on women in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and LDS Church History, to go along with what the LDS curriculum for Sunday school is each year. Hopefully this means that more and more classes will be including examples from these incredible women.

The book also has beautiful pictures of women from the scriptures painted by Elspeth Young. I've used several of Young's paintings for women featured on this blog and I can't praise her work enough. I love it that she paints women who are rarely, if never, painted. Women like the little maid, Hannah, the daughters of Zelophehad, Huldah, Eunice, Abigail and Anna. Deseret Book is also selling a companion calender to the book that has many of the paintings from the book.

These would be great Christmas gifts... hint, hint to my hubby...

And don't forget to read the chapter on Deborah, it is my favorite ;)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Noah's Wife

Genesis 6: 18
Genesis 7: 7, 13
Genesis 8: 16, 18
Moses 8:12


Only nine generations after Adam's death the world had become "corrupt before God" and it was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11). It was so wicked that the Lord "repented... that he had made man on the earth" and vowed to "...destroy... from the face of the earth; both man, and beast and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air." (Genesis 6:6-7) Amidst all this wickedness Noah remained faithful and found "grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6: 8) God makes a covenant with him that he will save him, his wife, his sons, and his son's wives from the destruction. He provides Noah with instructions on how to build and ark that will carry him, his family and all the creations of the earth to safety (Genesis 6: 13-22).

Facts About Her:
  • She was married to the prophet Noah, who was a "... just man and perfect in his generation." (Genesis 6:9);
  • She was the mother of three sons: Japeth, Shem and Ham. They were also righteous men who walked with God (Moses 8:13);
  • She went into the ark with her husband, sons, three daughter-in-laws, and all the animals and fowls of the earth (Genesis 7: 7, 13);
  • Her granddaughters married men of the world, became wicked, and were destroyed in the flood along with everyone else (Moses 8:14-15);
  • She and her family stayed in the ark for almost a whole year (Genesis 7:11, 8:4, 13-14) ;
  • God made a covenant with her husband and her sons that He would never destroy the earth by flood again (Genesis 9:12-17);
  • She was a "second Eve" in that all the children of the earth born after the flood came through her;
  • It is through her son Shem's posterity that the Jews came, and eventually the Savior Jesus Christ.
Speculations About Her:
  • In the apocryphal Book of Jasher (5:15) it says that her name was "Naamah", the daughter of Enoch.
  • Jewish tradition also says her name was Naamah but that she was the Naamah mentioned in Genesis 4:22, the daughter of Lamech and Zilah and sister of Tubal-Cain.
  • The Greeks called her "Doris" the wife of Nereus (Noah), the "wet one".
  • She probably would have had to help take care of all the animals that were on the ark. God commanded Noah to take 7 male/female pairs of all the clean animals and fowls (14 total of each animal) and 2 (one male, one female) of the unclean animals (Genesis 7:2-3). That would have been a whole lot of animals to be cooped up with for almost a whole year!
  • God also commanded them to take all the food they would need for the animals and themselves onto the ark (Genesis 6: 21). I read one story that claimed Noah's wife was the one to gather all the plants and preserved the ancient wisdom of the earth.
My Thoughts:

Even though we don't know her name, or know much about her, this woman was one of the most important and influential women in the history of the world. She, like Eve, was the mother of the human race. It is through her that all the nations of the earth after the flood were born. In fact, her and Noah's story is very similar to the story of Adam and Eve-- just a bit backward.

Here is the sequence of events in the Adam and Eve story:
  1. God covered the world in water, "... there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." (Genesis 2:6);
  2. God formed man from the dust of the earth and "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.." (Genesis 2:7);
  3. The animals and fowls of the air are named (Genesis 2:19-20);
  4. Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28);
  5. Because of their sins Adam and Eve are removed from a pure, perfect, new world and taken to a corrupt, fallen and wicked world.
Compare this to the story of Noah and his wife.
  1. Because of their righteousness they were saved from a corrupt, violent and wicked world and removed to a clean, perfect and new world;
  2. They went into the ark "... two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." (Genesis 7: 15);
  3. They took with them all the animals and fowls of the earth (Genesis 7:9);
  4. Once the flood was over they were commanded to "... be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth." (Genesis 8:17)
In a way she and Noah were a second Adam and Eve being reborn into a clean and pure world. I think there story represents the potential that all of God's creations have for rebirth and redemption. Each of us is living in a fallen, wicked and corrupt world but through our righteousness God promises us that we will be able to be "reborn" into his kingdom where we will inherit eternal glory (Moses 6:59).

The story of Noah and his wife illustrates how God will redeem his righteous people from the fall, how he will deliver them and how he will provide for them a world that is pure and clean. It is also significant to note that it isn't just the animals that go into the ark "two by two" but that the humans also go into the ark in husband and wife pairs. I think that this teaches us that God's work is done by pairs, a husband and a wife, and that it His desire that we come unto him "two by two".

Another thought I've had about this story is that the ark is representative of the temples we now have on the earth. Inside the temple a man and woman are sealed together, "two by two", and given great promises which are dependent upon their faithfulness. The temple is a place of safety and peace amidst a world that is filled with violence, wickedness and corruption. In a way the temple is our modern day ark, which carries us through this through this fallen world and gives us a glimpse of the clean and pure one we will enter one day.

Noah's wife must have been an incredible woman. Her example gives me hope and strength as I too am attempting to raise a family and be a righteous wife and woman in a wicked and violent world.

What We Can Learn From Her:
  • Women can remain faithful and raise righteous families even in a world that is full of violence and wickedness;
  • If we remain faithful God will always provide a means of deliverance from the wickedness that surrounds us;
  • Great work can be accomplished when men and women support each other;
  • God intends for all his creations to come unto him "two by two."
Questions to Think About:
  • How did she raise righteous son's amidst all that wickedness? How did she keep them unspoiled by what was happening around them?
  • In what ways did she help with the creation of the Ark? Did she help build it? Care for the animals?
  • Was she always supportive of Noah or did she ever doubt him?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Save the WRI

Did you hear that BYU is closing the Women's Research Institute (WRI)?

This makes me want to cry.

The WRI was my haven at BYU and I owe much of the peace I feel now about being an active LDS woman and a mother to the women and experiences I had there. I wrote more of my feelings here.

BYU needs the Women's Research Institute because LDS women need it. There are many LDS women who never struggle with questions of gender inequality, but for those of us who do the WRI represents hope. Hope that there will always be an open dialogue between LDS men and women on gender. Hope that if we keep searching we will find answers to our hard Gospel questions. Hope that one day men and women will be able to live together with out violence or inequality. And hope that our daughters will inherit a world that is safer and kinder to women.

I don't want to give up that hope.

If you don't either you can join the facebook group "Save the Women's Research Institute" , join the protest at BYU (oh how I wish I was there), write a letter, and pray... a lot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Baby Blessing

Last Sunday we blessed our daughter.

Ever since she was born my mind and heart have been filled with worries about this little girl's future. The world is getting increasingly darker and and it scares me to send my perfect, pure and beautiful daughter out into a world that will hurt her. I know how hard it is to be a girl and what a rocky road it is towards womanhood, especially towards becoming a righteous woman. I know that because she is a girl the world will be a more dangerous place for her than it is for my son. I know there will be trials and challenges that she will have to face because of her gender; my heart breaks when I think I think about all the possible ways that she can be hurt, belittled, or mistreated just because she is a girl.

All these worries and thoughts were swirling around in my soul on Sunday when my husband took our little daughter in his arms to give her a name and a blessing. I had my eyes open during he blessing because I was rapidly trying to write down everything that was said. At one point I looked up towards the front of the chapel and saw our daughter held in her father's arms and surrounded in a circle by her grandfathers, her uncles and other men who cared deeply about her. As I looked at that circle it was as if I saw a big bubble wrapped around my little daughter, a big bubble of priesthood protection. It wasn't just that the men in that circle would protect and care for her the rest of their lives, but it was that they represented God's great love for her and the power of His protection. I knew that God loves this little girl as much as I do and that He worries about her too. She is His daughter, more than she is mine, and He did not send her into the world alone. He has sent angels to guide and protect her, has given her a loving family, and has surrounded her in the protection of His priesthood.

I've often struggled with baby blessings, feeling that it was somehow unfair that men were the ones to bless the baby and present it to the congregation, while the women who did all the work bringing the baby into the world didn't get any recognition at all. Yet each time I've watched my husband take our children in his arms and bless them I've heard the Spirit whispering to my soul that God loves each of his children equally whether male or female. God is not unjust or he would cease to be God (Morm. 9:15, 19). He provides each of his children with the same "bubble" of priesthood power and protection. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, black or white, if you hold the priesthood or if you don't hold the priesthood, His love is the same.

I know that there will be times when neither I, her father or any of those men in that circle will be able to keep this precious little girl safe and untouched by the evil of the world. Yet what peace it brings me as a mother, as a woman, to know that at those times God will watch over her, keep her safe, answer her questions, and heal her soul.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eve's "Curse" ?

Every General Conference I pray that God will answer certain questions of my heart and this conference I was praying that He would teach me something new about women in the scriptures or about God's relationship with women. I was hoping that someone would give a whole talk based off a woman in the scriptures or that someone would use an obscure scriptural woman to exemplify a gospel principle... no such luck. The only mention of women from the scriptures was an indirect reference to the mothers of the stripping warriors. I was kind of disappointed. Yet even though there wasn't a direct talk mentioning women in the scripture God still answered my prayer.

In Elder L. Whitney Clayton's talk "That Your Burdens May Be Light" he said:

... Burdens provide opportunities to practice virtues that contribute to eventual perfection. They invite us to yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father." ... Adam was told, “Cursed shall be the ground for thy sake,” which meant for his benefit, and “by the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Work is a continual burden, but it is also a continual blessing “for [our] sake,” for it teaches lessons we can learn only “by the sweat of [our] face.”

It dawned on me that if Adam's curse was really a blessing, that the land was "cursed" for his benefit so that he could learn the lessons that could only be learned by working by "the sweat of his face", then perhaps the same thing was true for Eve. Perhaps what has so commonly been interpreted as Eve's "curse", bringing forth children in pain and being ruled over by her husband, were instead blessings from God that were intended to help her learn the lessons she needed in order to return to the presence of God.

Initially I had a hard time believing this; how could a loving God purposely send his daughters out into the mortal world with a "blessing" that would only result in them being hurt, controlled and demeaned by men? Yet as I read the scriptures closer I found that the only things that were cursed by God were the serpent and the ground. God tells Eve
"... I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (Genesis 3:16)
There is absolutely no mention of a curse or even of a punishment. In fact, when I began to break down what God told Eve I saw that it was truly a great blessing, intended to liberate and empower His daughters. He is telling her that:
  1. She will have many children
  2. She will feel great sorrow and pain (but conversely also great joy)
  3. She will desire to work in a partnership with her husband
  4. With her husband she will rule after the manner of the Holy Priesthood.
That doesn't sound like much of a curse to me.

I think it worth while to take a closer look at what God was telling Eve. By breaking the scripture down into its individual parts one can get a better understanding of the great blessings God has designed for His daughters.

"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception..."

Sometimes understanding the Hebrew roots and meanings of words illuminates scriptures. This is one case where understanding the Hebrew words completely changes the interpretation of the scripture.
The Hebrew word for "multiply" is rabah (raw-bah), meaning to repeat over and over. It does not suggest greater sorrow, but rather repeated sorrow. The Hebrew word for "sorrow" in the Geneiss account (Genesis 3:16( is from atsab (aw-tsab), which means "labor" or "pain". While these words sugges that toil and suffering would be a part of Eve's life, Eve did not view the conditions that came upon her through the Fall to be a curse (see Moses 5:11). Moses 4:22 is a great revelation to women. Eve and her daughters can become co-creators with God by preparing bodies for his spirit children to occupy on earth and later in eteriny. Mothering would entail inconvenience, suffering, travail, and sorrow; these the Lord foretold as natural consequence and not as a curse." (Rasmussen, Latter-day Saint Commentary, 17)
God is just describing to Eve how her mortal condition is going to be on earth, that she will increase in size (pregnancy), that she will bear children and that she will do it multiple times. She must have been grateful later on that God gave her some heads up as to what would happen to her body. Imagine how scared she must have been the first time she got pregnant! She would have had no idea what was happening to her or what she could expect. Here God is explaining to her what will happen to her and what she has to gain from it.
We also have to remember that Eve wanted to have children, that is why she partook of the forbidden fruit. In the Garden of Eden God had commanded her and Adam to "multiply and replenish the earth" but because they had not fallen and were not mortal they were unable to fulfill God's commandment. Eve understood that by partaking of the fruit she would "fall" from the presence of God, but that in doing so she would become more like God because she would gain the ability to bear children and to comprehend good from evil. One can only imagine that she must have interpreted God's decree that she would bear children, many children, as a great blessing.

"... in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children..."

The "sorrow" here is the same "sorrow" that God pronounces upon Adam when he says, "In sorrow shalt thou eat of it [the ground] all the days of thy life." The Hebrew meaning of this word is also "travail or pain". God is telling Adam that it will take great work and pain to bring forth food from the earth, just as he is telling Eve that it is going to take great work and pain to bring forth children from her body. He's not giving them unequal responsibilities, both Adam and Eve's mortal responsibilities involve hard work and pain. What he pronounces upon one, he also pronounces upon the other.

Even the fact that having children would bring her pain must have seemed like a blessing to Eve because it meant that now she and Adam were able to feel sorrow, and if they could feel sorrow then they would also be able to feel joy. She accepted this and in Moses 5:11-12 we read that she blessed the name of God and said
"... Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient"(Moses 5:11)
The sorrow and pain of bringing forth children was no punishment for Eve because she understood that it was only by partaking of the bitter that she would be able to comprehend the sweet.

Childbirth isn't easy, just as raising food from the earth isn't easy. Yet just as a farmer feels great satisfaction, joy and rest at the end of his harvest, so does a woman after giving birth. Most women who have given birth will tell you that in the joy of holding their new child all the pain and sorrow of prengnacy and labor melted away. I believe that God designed both tasks, childbirth and raising food, to be hard so that men and women would be able to find transforming strength and power to face the challenges they would face during their mortal journey.

"... thy desire shall be to thy husband"

Eve knew that she was about to leave the safety and innocence of the Garden and enter into a fallen, corrupt and mortal world-- where she would be expected to bring forth and raise all the children of the earth. How scared and overwhelmed she must have been by this huge responsibility!

God promises Eve that she will not have to shoulder the enormous responsibility and burden of bringing children into this world by herself. Before she left the Garden God promised Eve that her "desire would be to her husband". This desire isn't just sexual desire, but it means she would desire to be with Adam and to work with him towards their joint goal of becoming like God. They would undertake their mortal journey together as partners. This is the first time that God lays out the foundation for all family relationships. His design for the family was that both men and women should desire to work together as partners and that together they would rule together over the stewardships that God gave them. He knew what challenges and trials Eve would be facing as she brought children into this world and so He organized the family structure to help protect and take care of His beloved daughter and her children.

When organized after the pattern God created, with a man and woman working together as equal partners, the family structure does not entrap or enslave women, rather it protects them, frees them, and ennobles them.

"... and he shall rule over thee."

Once again this is an instance where understanding the Hebrew terms change the whole meaning of the scripture, because "rule over" can also be translated as "rule with". In her book "Women in Eternity, Women of Zion" Valerie Hudson Cassler says:
We are convinced the "rule over" is an unfortunate translation... the Hebrew term rendered here as "rule over" can also mean "rule with". In fact, we understand that when the Hebrew word "msh'l" (usually translated as "rule") is used in conjunction with "bet" (in most cases translated as "with", "in", "by" or "at") the better translation is "rule with" rather than "rule over" (pg. 92).
Also the "rule" used in these scriptures is referring to ruling according to the Holy Priesthood of God, which we read in D&C 121: 36, 41-44 "cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness." These principles of righteousness are:
"... persuasion.. long suffering... gentleness and unfeigned...kindness... pure knowledge... without hypocrisy... without guile... reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love..." (D&C 121:41-44)
Even if God was telling Eve that her husband would rule over her, being ruled over by someone who followed all these principles of righteousness wouldn't be all that bad. But if God is telling Eve that she will rule with her husband then it becomes her responsibility to treat all the stewardship God has given her-- the earth, the animals, her children and her body-- with love, respect and wisdom.

I don't believe that God ever intended for men to rule over women. It is just the corruption of our fallen world that has perverted His words and used them to justify inequality and control of women throughout history. I beleive that from the very begining God intended men and women to be joint stewards of God's creations and to work together as equal partners. He laid the foundations of family life, gave them a road map towards happiness, and endowed them with individual abilities and talents that would help them achive their common goal... becoming like God.

God never cursed Eve, He blessed her.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Glimpse

Last weekend was General Conference.

It was wonderful... as usual... how could it not be considering you get to hear a prophet of God speak?

Conference always gives me a spiritual infusion and helps me re-evaluate my life and my relationship with God. I am so grateful for it. I am also grateful that this Conference I got several new insights that I am very excited to share! But first I have to share an experience I had last week at the General Relief Society Broadcast that just reinforced my testimony of God's great love for women.

Last week I wrote about Eve and her faithful daughters and I remarked that I would LOVE to get a glimpse of these women. Well, God answers the prayers of our heart because during the broadcast I got that glimpse.

Imagine this place

the Conference Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, filled to capacity with over 21,333 righteous women (and millions more in meeting houses around the world) standing and singing "How Firm a Foundation". Especially imagine them singing at the top of their lungs with tears streaming down their face (I'm sure I wasn't the only one crying) the last verse of the song,
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes:
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never - no, never, no, never forsake!
As I stood in my meeting house, more than 100 miles away from the Conference Center, and sang this hymn my mind was filled with images of women all over the world standing along side me and singing their devotion to Jesus Christ. I felt such a connection to these women and to the women on the other side of the veil whom I felt were standing with us. I realized that I was only one in the army of millions of faithful women-- past, present and future-- whose testimonies of the gospel burn strong in their hearts and who are ready and willing to do all that God asks of them. I know that even though we are so far apart we are all bound together as sisters through the gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter where or when we live or have lived we are all the daughters of Eve-- glorious, faithful and strong. I am so grateful that God answered my prayer and granted me what I wanted... a glimpse.

I wish that they posted the musical numbers from Conference online, but they don't. But I did find this clip from a previous General Conference, not a Relief Society meeting, of "How Firm a Foundation" being sung by the congregation. It is powerful and if you haven't ever heard this hymn sung before I HIGHLY recommend watching this clip.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eve and Her Faithful Daughters

The 138th chapter of the Doctrine and Covenants documents a vision given to the Prophet Joseph F. Smith in 1918. In his vision the Prophet saw Christ's visit to the spirit world and His ministry among the faithful and noble spirits. Verses 38-49 relate some of the spirits he saw waiting for the arrival of the Savior among them, it says:
38 Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adan, the Ancient of Days and father of all,
39 And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.
I love the image of our glorious Mother Eve receiving the Savior as He visits the spirit world with hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of her daughters standing behind her, ready and excited to receive the fullness of the gospel. Women who, even though we don't have their names, lived lives that put them on the same standing before God as the men who were in the congregation, great and righteous men like: Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Elias, Malachi, Elijah and the prophets of the Book of Mormon (D&C 138: 40-49) .

How I would love to get a glimpse of those women, to learn their names, to know their stories and to hear their testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm sure that women like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Deborah, Huldah, Sariah, and Nephi's wife were among these noble women, as well as so many other faithful women whose names and stories we don't have. These were women who had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ before he came to earth; whose testimonies were built upon the promise of the coming of the Savior. I can only imagine their joy, after waiting hundreds of years, to finally see the Redeemer they had heard prophesied of for so long.

It brings me great joy to imagine all those great women receiving and listening to Christ preach of the restored gospel. I look forward to the time when Christ will come for the second time and Eve will once again stand before God with ALL her faithful daughters and present them to the Savior. That will be one meeting I hope I get to be a part of!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Delivered ere the midwives come

I just wanted to announce that I am now the mother of a most beautiful and precious little girl! She was born last week at home (we were planning a home birth) and came so quickly that she was born before the midwife could make it!

Delivering our own baby was an INCREDIBLE experience for my husband and I and simply put... it was beautiful. Also, in a strange coincidence of fate, one my friends from high school delivered her baby boy "ere the midwives" came unto her just the day before my little girl was born. She wasn't planning on having a home birth, but the baby came super fast and the hospital was 1/2 hour away. Luckily her mother has lots of experience delivering babies and works with several home birth midwives so she was able to help make it a good and peaceful experience.

And being the women in the scripture nerd that I am I couldn't pass up this extraordinary opportunity to make a modern day comparison to the story of Shiphrah and Puah and how they told the Pharaoh that:

"... the Hebrew women
are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them." (Exodus 1:19);

Granted, my friend didn't have to worry about hiding her little boy so that he wouldn't be killed (I would have been okay seeing I had a little girl) but it is fun to think that we now have something in common with our ancient Hebrew sisters. I guess I like thinking of myself as a robust, "lively" Hebrew woman... as compared a delicate, pampered Egyptian woman :) And who knows, I might just have some of that ancient Hebrew blood flowing through me somewhere!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rose's Birth Story

"Birth is not an emergency. It is an emergence."
- Unknown

The night before Rose was born I was sitting at our computer finishing writing a blog post when I turned to Jon, who was sitting on the couch doing homework, and said, "Man, it feels like this little girl is trying to push her way out of me!" For the last few minutes she had been pushing her feet against my ribs and it felt like she was wiggling her head in a semi-circle around my pelvis. It was a very strange sensation and she kept hitting nerves in my legs that would make my hip spasm. Jon just laughed and said "maybe she is" and we both left it at that, secretly hoping that he was right but not feeling optimistic because I hadn't been having very many contractions that night. We finally went to bed around 10:30 PM and didn't even bother to clean up the front room and dining room like we normally had been doing before bed, because we figured that she wasn't going to come that night and that we would just clean up in the morning.

I slept really well that night, I didn't even wake up to go to the bathroom, until I woke up at about 4:30 AM with several strong contractions. They were interesting contractions because even though they were fairly strong and uncomfortable, after each one I would get a wave of pure pleasure sensation that rushed through my whole body and made me feel wonderful. For a few minutes I just laid in bed and "rode" the sensation-- focusing on making it through the strong contraction and then relishing in the feeling of pleasure and relaxation that followed. This didn't last very long and soon my legs really started to hurt and I got up to go sit on the toilet. The contractions didn't go away when I stood up, in fact they increased in intensity, and so I realized that this must be the real thing and that I was in labor.

I have to admit that as I sat on the toilet and tried to relax through the strong contractions that I got really scared. These contractions were really strong, stronger than I ever remember having with Asher, and I was having a hard time relaxing through them. I still thought that I had at least 7 or 8 more hours of labor ahead of me (if things went similar to Asher's labor and birth) and started doubting whether I was strong enough to make it through. I sat on the toilet with my hips spread as far apart as I could get and with each contraction pushed my hands into the femoral nerve in my hips to help ease my leg pain. I sat like this, still trying to calm my fears and fill my mind with positive thoughts and affirmations, for about 10-15 minutes until Jon knocked on the door to see if I was alright. I told him that I was but that I thought I was in labor. He just got the biggest smile on his face and in my head I thought "Why are you smiling, this isn't fun."

After getting off the toilet I went downstairs and glanced at the clock which said it was 5:00 AM. I could hear that Jon was already in the shower (I tell you that boy was EXCITED!) but my contractions were getting stronger and I was having a hard time dealing with them by myself so I barged into the bathroom and told Jon "I need you, get out now." So he ran upstairs and got dressed and I put on my bathrobe and my mother shower bracelet-- which really helped me to feel stronger and to think positive thoughts.

Even though the contractions were strong they were REALLY erratic. Jon and I tried timing them but they didn't have any sort of pattern to them. I would get 2 or 3 really strong contraction that were only a minute apart, but then I would get several weak contractions that were about 5 to 10 minutes apart. I was also having pretty intense pain in my legs that didn't go away in between contractions. When we called the midwife (just a little after 5 am) she told us that it sounded like the baby's head was not in the best position and that was probably why my contraction pattern was irregular and why I was getting leg pain. She told me to use the "polar bear position" (laying with your head on the ground and your pelvis up in the air) and to lean over the bed or a birth ball to help open up my pelvis and let the baby move her head into a better position. She said that usually when the baby is in a less than optimal position labor doesn't progress as quickly because the contractions don't dilate the cervix as well. She told us that she would start getting ready and that we should call her in about an hour to let her know how things were progressing.

For the next hour I spent most of my time leaning over the changing table or the couch swaying my hips, in the "polar bear" position on the floor, or leaning over the birth ball. I also found myself talking and singing to the baby a lot. I would tell her "move, baby move" and even made up a little song that went something like "I love you baby, baby come to me, come to me and I'll set you free." Not the most brilliant lyrics ever written but singing to her helped me relax in between the contractions and to feel safe. After awhile the contractions got so strong that I couldn't handle them by myself and needed Jon to squeeze both my hips together as hard as he could. In fact, I found that I couldn't relax through them at all (which I had been able to do with Asher) and the only way I could make it through them was to have Jon squeeze my hips and for me to bellow "HARDER, SQUEEZE HARDER" at him. It was the combination of him pushing back against the contraction and me being able to bellow out some of the intensity that allowed me to emerge on the other side of the contraction still somewhat in control and calm.

It was about this point that I really started to get scared and to doubt that I was going to be able to make it through to the end. I was really discouraged by the thought that because the baby was still in a less than optimal position that these contractions weren't doing much to help me progress. I remember leaning over the birth ball and telling myself, "I could handle this if I only knew that each contraction was doing what it is suppose to" and wanting to cry and give up. It was then that I asked Jon if he would give me a blessing that everything would be alright. In between contractions I knelt in the polar bear position and he put his hands on my head and gave me one of the most amazing and beautiful blessings I've ever received. I wish I could remember everything that was said, but I do remember the amazing peace I felt. I also remember that in the blessing I was told that Heavenly Father was aware of me, that everything would be alright, that I was not alone, and that He had sent angels to be with me and my baby.

It wasn't long after the blessing, probably around 6:30 AM, that I felt the baby move down and the pain in my legs eased up and knew that she had moved into a better position. Up until this point my contractions had still been erratic and inconsistent, but once she moved her head into position they started to take on a more consistent pattern. We talked with the midwife again and told her that things seemed to become more consistent and that I had had a little bleeding when I sat on the toilet. She said that this was a good sign as it meant that my cervix was dilating and she said that she would be there as soon as she could. She also said that it was okay for me to get in the birth pool if I wanted (which I did!) as long as I got out if my contractions slowed down or stopped.

Somehow, in the midst of squeezing my hips through every contraction and talking with the midwife, my amazing husband managed to get the birth pool all blown up and filled with water. Actually at one point I remember he was having a hard time getting the liner on the pool and asked me if I could come help him. I remember thinking he was totally crazy to be asking me to do anything at that point and gave him a look of death. But in the end I did end up holding the edge of the liner for second while he got it pulled on.

Basically... Jon was amazing. He was there for me with his strong arms and his loving touch through almost every contraction. He didn't once get flustered or upset by my constant command of "SQUEEZE HARDER", even though sometimes I could feel his arms shaking. There are only two times I remember having to go through a contraction alone-- because he was running the pump for the pool and didn't hear me call for him. And during one of those contractions I know for certain that I wasn't alone. Right at the peak of one of my hardest and longest contractions, when Jon wasn't able to be there for me, I looked down at my hand and felt that someone was holding it. I knew at that moment that what Jon said in the blessing was true, God was aware of me and there were angels with me.

Jon helped me get into my sports bra (for Asher's birth I didn't wear one and later regretted it because then I couldn't show the pictures to anyone) and into the tub. The water was really hot because it wasn't all the way full yet, but I didn't want to wait any longer to get in. The hot water was amazing and relaxed my body all over. In fact, I almost didn't feel the first two contractions I had in the water because I was so relaxed. By this time it was about 7:00 in the morning and Asher was still asleep upstairs. We had two friends who had offered to come get Asher and watch him while I was in labor, but Jon had tried calling both of them and neither one of them answered their phones. I think that one of our angels must have been upstairs keeping Asher asleep because the last few mornings he had been waking up around 6:15 AM, but even with all the commotion Jon and I were making Asher miraculously stayed asleep until about 7:10 AM.

When Asher woke up Jon brought him down and he was super excited about there being a swimming pool in the middle of our living room. He kept trying to get into it and when he finally realized that he wasn't going to be able to he took to hammering it with his hammer. He was really sweet to me and gave me several adorable love pats and kisses in between my contractions.

I really only had 5 or 6 contractions in the birth pool before I felt like I needed to start pushing. I called for Jon, who had just put Asher into his high chair and gotten him a bowl of rice crispies, and he came over and held my hands while I squatted. Jon called the midwife and I remember hearing "Um... Heather (midwife's name) are you close because she is pushing." He was so incredibly calm and didn't seem panicked or worried in the least bit, and he told me later that he wasn't because he knew that I could do it and knew that everything was going to be alright. He told me "That is what your body is made to do... and it did it... what was there to be scared about." Yeah... I think I married the world's most AMAZING man. The midwife was still about 20 minutes away and Jon kept her on the phone as I held his hands and gave some more big pushes. I felt my water break in a little "poof"and then two pushes later I felt her head crowning. I reached down and felt her head pushing against my hand, (Jon reached down and felt her too) and then on the next contraction I gave one really big push and her head flowed out of me. Up until now I had been so engulfed in the sensations of birth-- the intensity of the contractions and the all encompassing urge to push-- that the fact that my baby was coming right then and there, without the midwife, hadn't really penetrated my psyche. But once her head was out I realized what was happening and had a couple seconds of anxiety. I know that since babies don't breathe until they take their first breath of air and because they are still attached to the placenta, that it is okay for them to be underwater but in the excitement of the moment I forgot that and started to worry about her head being in the water. I tried giving several pushes, but without a contraction my efforts were pretty much useless. The midwife was still on the phone and was able to reassure me that everything was fine and that I just needed to be patient and that the rest of the body would come out on the next contraction.

There is really no stranger feeling in this world than to look down and see that you have a baby half in and half out of you. It is a point all women reach at some point when they give birth, but with Asher's birth I wasn't as aware of it as I was this time. This time I had a few minutes to look down at the head I was holding in my hands and appreciate what an amazing thing I was a part of. I realized that for those few minutes my baby was in between heaven and earth and that I was a wide open portal between them. It was an amazing feeling and one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

With my next contraction I felt the rest of her body flow out of me and I reached down into the water and pulled her up into my arms. She was really alert and peaceful. She didn't cry at all, she just looked up at me for a few moments with big eyes and then closed them again and nestled into my arms. The midwife asked us about her coloring, reflexes and appearance and said from what she could tell over the phone that she sounded healthy and strong-- which she verified when she got there a few minutes later. Jon came over and put his arms around me and we both just stared at our amazing little girl. She was so peaceful and even started to snore a little! Then we started to hear a sweet little "mama? mama?" coming from the high chair and Jon went and brought Asher over to meet his little sister. He was entranced by her and kept telling us "baby, baby" and Jon helped him lean over and give her a little kiss. It was such a sweet moment.

I can't even begin to explain the feeling that filled that room as we huddled there together as a family for the first time. There really are no other words but "sacred" and "holy" to describe how it felt. Even though we weren't planning on having Asher there for the birth I am really glad that he was, because I know that he felt and understood the intense amount of love and peace that filled our house for those few minutes. And I know that we could all feel the presence of the angels who were watching over us. It has actually been hard for me to share this birth experience with others because it was so sacred and beautiful, and my words never come close to being able to describe what it felt like or what it meant to me.

Only about 5 or 6 minutes after the baby was born my friend Elizabeth, who we had called to come pick up Asher, came in the back door. I was still in the pool and Jon and Asher were huddled around the baby when we looked up and saw her tiptoeing into the room. She was shocked to see a baby in my arms and almost immediately started to cry. She told me afterward that, "the feeling in the room was incredible" and that she was honored to be a part of our special moment. She hadn't meant to intrude, she was just there to get Asher, but we ended up being really grateful that she came because we had planned on having Jon's mom at the birth but she was still an hour away when the baby was born. It was nice to have Elizabeth there to take pictures, run the video camera, and keep Asher entertained until my mother-in-law arrived. Jon's cousin Mindy, who was the other person we had called to come get Asher, also arrived before the midwife did and was shocked to find that I had already had the baby. She offered to take Asher but we were enjoying having him there so she left but came back later with a huge platter of french toast, juice and fruit.

The midwife arrived about 10 minutes after the baby was born and helped to deliver the placenta and get me and the baby all cleaned up. We got out of the pool and Jon and the midwife got me get dressed and settled onto the couch (with plenty of liners and pads under me) with my baby. She started to nurse right away and I was surprised by how hungry she was! I think Jon must pass on the "good eating" gene in this family because both of my kids have been able to tuck it away like pros right from the start! I was also surprised at how good I felt after this birth compared to Asher's. After Asher's birth I was really tired (I pushed for over an hour) and remember thinking "I don't want to do that again", but this time I felt like I could ride a bike to the moon and back. My body felt strong, my mind felt strong, and my spirit felt stronger than it ever had.

Even though things didn't go quite like we expected, Rose's birth was so amazing that I wouldn't change one thing about how it turned out. Her birth has brought Jon and I closer together and has made us stronger partners and parents. Every once in awhile we look at each other and we get big grins on our face remembering how together, here in our house, with no one to witness it except Asher, we delivered our own precious little girl into the world. Rose's birth has also given me so much more confidence in myself and in my body. I am simply awestruck by the amazing power my body has and when I look at myself in the mirror I think, "Wow, this is a body that has created, birthed and fed two other human beings". I understand now, more than I ever have before, how important it is to respect, honor and love my body. I've also felt more confidence in myself as a woman and as a mother. I feel like if I can deliver my own baby then there isn't anything in the world that I can't do with God's help. During her birth I got a brief glimpse into eternity and realized who I am and what I am capable of... and that has made me a different woman. I am so honored to be the mother to this beautiful little girl. She is has an amazing spirit and I so excited to get to know her better. But I do have the feeling that she is going to be keeping me on my toes for the rest of her life!