Friday, July 30, 2010

Turning My Heart to the Women in My Past

I just got back from an amazing trip. It was so wonderful in so many ways.

We went to Bandon, a little coastal town in Southern Oregon, for a family reunion. I'd never been to the coast and it completely stole my heart. I am insanely jealous of all of you who get to live near beauty like this. I'd forfeit my mountains in a heart beat for these cold, foggy, rocky, beaches.

Tragically I forgot my camera on this trip. So thanks for this site for the picture that captured exactly where we stayed.

This trip was so healing for me in many ways. The reason for our trip was to meet family that up until two years ago I didn't even know existed. For lots of different reasons I have never been connected to my mother's side of the family. Growing up I barely new my grandparents or my cousins on that side of my family. The only stories I'd heard about my Pettes-Thacker heritage were the two times I interviewed my grandmother in the last few years of her life (praise and blessings on the high school English teacher who made me do it for an assignment) about her experiences living in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor and about how my Great-grandparents fell in love.

That was really all I knew about that side of my family until about two years ago I finally opened a large box full of family history stuff my mother had given me. I'd hauled it around with me through 4 years of college but hadn't ever taken the time to open it. When I finally did I found it was full of letters that my great-grandmother had saved throughout her life, including all the love letters my great-grandfather wrote here when they were courting. It was a treasure.

Through some of the letters and emails I found in the box I connected with my grandmother's cousins who were all in the 60's and 70's and who had been yearning for years to re-connected with my side of the family. I discovered they held a family reunion every year in Oregon and last year we planed to go but I was pregnant, broke my foot and both my parents decided to get remarried -- so we didn't get to go.

This year we made it and even though I was nervous about meeting people I'd never seen or talked to before, my little family and I were welcomed with wide open arms and lots of hugs. It was amazing how quickly through, good food, games, genealogy sharing, and pictures, these strangers quickly became family. Being in such a beautiful place, with such wonderful people who told me story after story about my grandmother and great-grandmother was divine. For several days I literally felt like I was walking in heaven I was so filled with joy.

I realized that not only do I have relatives who are amazing (and very hospitable) but that I have a heritage full of powerful and amazing people.

This week I discovered that I am a decedent of four amazing beautiful, strong, intelligent, kind women who lived hard lives but left an amazing legacy.

The Pettes Family in 1934. Florence Grace Pettes Thacker ( in the middle holding her son William) is my great-grandmother. Louise (far left in glasses) is my grandmother.

That I am a decedent of a Civil War veterans who fought for the Union. The family even has a copy of Fredrick William Pettes' journal he kept the last few months of the war. Mostly it is filled with his frustrations about wanting to go home because he is afraid is sweetheart is going to get married; his commanding officer, who happens to be his father, won't give him leave to go visit her.

Captain Fredrick William Pettes in 1863

But I guess it turns out okay because in the end they get married anyway.

Fredrick Williams and Florence Atkins Pettes on their wedding day

That I can trace my history back the people who crossed the Mayflower, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. They are the ones mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish." One of my grandmother's cousins has documents to prove our relationship and so if I wanted I could become a member of the Mayflower society!

As they told me story after story I felt, truly from the bottom of my soul, that I came to understand the scripture in Malachi 4:6 that says,
"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
My heart has been "turned" to my ancestors and in the process it has been healed. I love these people so deeply and I don't even know them.

I am especially filled with love for the women in my heritage. I will be eternally grateful to them for their willingness to have children, even in some hard circumstances, so that I was able to be born into the family I was. That is a debt that I will never be able to repay.

When I think about these great women of my past I am so grateful for their faith and their dedication to God.They have left me a great heritage.

It is amazing to look into their faces and see myself, to see my sisters, to see my mother and my grandmother.

What a great treasure to have found them.

And what a beautiful day it will be when I get to meet them.

Charlotte, Mabel, Eleanor and Florence Pettes in 1919

I've been "infected" by the Spirit of Elijah and I think I like it... a lot.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sister Scriptorians

I just love this quote by Spencer W. Kimball and if you get a chance you should read the whole talk. It is called "The Role of Righteous Women".
"Even though the eternal roles of men and women differ…this leaves much to be done by way of parallel personal development—for both men and women. In this connection, I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians—whether you are single or married, young or old, widowed or living in a family.

Regardless of your particular circumstances, as you become more and more familiar with the truths of the scriptures, you will be more and more effective in keeping the second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Become scholars of the scriptures—not to put others down, but to lift them up! After all, who has any greater need to “treasure up” the truths of the gospel (on which they may call in their moments of need) than do women and mothers who do so much nurturing and teaching?"

And if you haven't seen this video it is worth your time. It made me bawl. I wrote my thoughts about it here if you are interested.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Gift of Giving Life

Since I'm in mode of asking for stories I thought I'd make one more request of all my wonderful readers. I've mentioned before that I am working on a book with some other LDS women called, "The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth." There are lots of books on how to prepare physically for birth but this book is about how to prepare spiritually. We are including a lot of stories from LDS women about their spiritual insights into their birth experiences. We have some amazing stories so far but we still would like some more.

Here is what we are looking for. If you feel AT ALL prompted to share your story PLEASE don't hesitate to share it. I've re-posted the call for stories that we posted on the blog for the book.

Calling all LDS women who have given birth. We have received many great stories that have made us feel even more in awe of women. We are still looking for a few more on specific topics.

Meditation - How did you meditate during your pregnancy? How did meditation prepare you for birth/motherhood? Share any growth, insights, or anything about meditation.

- What ceremonies/rituals did you participate in to prepare you for birth/motherhood/letting go of maidenhood? How did you spiritually prepare for the birth? Physically? Mentally and Emotionally? What would you write on a spiritual birth plan? We are also looking for stories about preparation and agency/consequences as they relate to pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

Healing from Sexual Abuse
- How giving birth helped you heal from sexual abuse?

Your Legacy -
How knowing your Mother's (or another person's) story affected your birth.

Constant Nourishment -
How your nourished your body, mind, or spirit during pregnancy, labor, motherhood.

The Spirit/Mind/Body Connection
- How did your mind affect your body, or your spirit effect your body?

Re-birth -
Whatever that means to you.

Unity -
We are looking for stories about unity with your partner, unity with caregivers, unity with baby, unity with God, and any other kind of unity.

The Atonement - Any stories or essays about pregnancy and birth and how it relates to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Experiences with Medicated Births
- We're short on these. We aren't sure why. We know birth can be spiritual no matter what, but for some reason, natural birthers are more excited to talk about their experiences. So if you have had spiritual Cesarean births or spiritual medicated births, please share. Birth is a miracle no matter how babies come. The point of this book is to bring that back into primary focus.

Please send us your story as a word document or in the body of an email. Try to keep them somewhat short. I know it's hard. Please don't send links. Also, this is a spiritual birthing book for LDS women, so please do not edit things of a spiritual nature. Don't worry about being a fabulous writer. We are good editors.

We can't promise we'll use them, but we can promise to get your final approval before we publish them. So sit down and writer yours today and send it to me at ldsbirthstories at gmail dot com.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Amanda's Testimony

Amanda sent me her story and I was so touched by it. Her perspective on life and on eternity is beautiful and I love how studying the scriptures has impacted her life is such a profound way. Here is what she wrote:

Rebekah's story is very close to my heart.

My husband and I struggled (and continue to struggle) for years with infertility. Finally, I was blessed to become pregnant through IVF several years ago. I found out right away that I was pregnant with twins, and before we knew their genders, I was strongly impressed that I would be having a boy and a girl. My husband and I decided that we would like for our children to have Biblical names and that we would like for our children's names to bear witness to God's love and power in our struggle with infertility. We decided on Samuel for the boy (because of Hannah's story, and her witness that she called him Samuel because God had given him to her). We also felt very strongly that the girl's name should be Rebekah. I loved her story in the Bible, and I loved how her brothers blessed her that she would be "the mother of thousands of millions." It also seemed appropriate that she gave birth to twins.

I gave birth to my children on November 2008. My son Samuel was two months premature, but he was healthy and is doing very well today. My daughter Rebekah was a stillborn. On her headstone, under her name, we quoted the scripture in Genesis, "Be thou the mother of
thousands." We have often felt that she was (is) a very special spirit and are very pleased that she was named after such a noble woman. Since that time, I have learned more about the Biblical Rebekah and every new thing I learn brings me a feeling of joy and peace. I look forward to meeting her, along with the time I will be reunited with my own daughter.

The theme of infertility that runs through the scriptures, as that has brought me great comfort in my own struggles, and I know many other women who struggle with this as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Abi's Testimony

Abi, who is serving a temple mission for the LDS church, just barley started taking the women in the scripture challenge and has started to record her thoughts on her own blog. She has written some beautiful thoughts about Sariah. Here is what she sent me about what she has learned, already, from reading the scriptures through the lens of women.

Thank you so much for the posts you have done. I've learned so much
and it has sparked my enthusiasm and love for people in the scriptures. I've started with the Book of Mormon. I love studying the scriptures and finding out about the woman mentioned. I think your blog is a fantastic tool which has furthered my love for the women in the scriptures and has made me view certain woman with more love, admiration and respect. It has given me the desire to further my study.

I didn't know much at all about Huldah before I read your blog. I very vaguely remembered reading the name in seminary but really didn't know much about her. (Incidentally I read the name on two occasions, first in 2 Kings 22:12-20 and second in 2 Chronicles 34:22-28). Your post prompted me to read and study about her and I can now say that I have a great love and admiration for her. I love that she sought after knowledge. As I consider the role of women, as mothers in Zion I realize how vital it is that we as women seek after knowledge of all kinds.
I have been truly blessed to have a Mother who sought after knowledge. She began life by training as a nurse and as a result my brothers and I have been blessed. She was given many opportunities to apply that knowledge as we grew up - I think the incident I remember most was when my brother, trying to look in a mug to see the contents, ended up pouring a boiling hot drink down his front - the mug had been filled from the kettle moments prior to him approaching it. Mum immediately applied her nursing skills - as a result, he doesn't have a burn scar (if he does it's minimal!). I also remember countless phone calls from members of our ward or family members seeking medical advice, whether for burns, cuts, rashes, we have all been truly blessed by her. It's amazing the influence one mother in Zion can have.

She has always had the desire to further her education, this she did through a degree as a mature student and I am so proud of her for the dedication she put into studying Deaf Studies, coming away with a first (A 4.0 in USA). On a spiritual level it was my Mum who got myself and my brothers to seminary, who encouraged us in our study of the scriptures. It is my Mum that I remember sitting down with me and writing talks for Primary. (My Dad did influence as well in a HUGE way but this post is about women!) I am very much aware that she learnt this desire for knowledge from her Mother, my Grandmother was also a nurse, in fact both my Grandmothers were nurses(!) and both had a huge influence on those around them. I swear my Mum's Mum is the fount of all knowledge when it comes to plants! (Something she learnt from her Grandmother.) My Grandmother sews, a skill she has taught to my Mum, myself and several girls in her ward. I have the ability to adapt clothes to enable them to be church standard. (An ability I do need to practice more, too often asking my Mum if she can do it because she's better than me!) Again what a major blessing! My Mum serves the young women in our ward at the moment and has offered the young women in our ward the same blessing. If they have or find any clothes they like that aren't quite church standards she is willing to add fabric and modify them so that they can keep their standards.

It's not just women in my family who have taught me. I have learnt so much from the women in my ward. There have been parenting lessons which I attended - even though I am not married - and I learnt so much from the experiences that were shared there and other activities in my ward and Stake which have influenced me. I am grateful for the many great examples I have around me of women seeking after knowledge.

It is never too late to seek knowledge.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ramona's Testimony

Ramona left this as a comment on my call for guest posters but I thought it was so wonderful I wanted to make sure you all read it. Here is what she said.

My name is Ramona and I have been reading your blog for about a month. I am a new member to the Church of Jesus Christ and LDS. I want to take the challenge. I can tell you that the woman that gives me inspiration is Sarah, Abraham's wife. I have recently read the record of Sarah with fresh insight, and I came away feeling relieved of various burdens felt by myself and most women. I was blessed to know that our Heavenly Father considers "his handmaidens" so special that he kept his promise to Sarah to come back at the "appointed time" so that she would bear Issac. I don't have children, and until I read the record of Sarah, and heard the testimonies of women like me, I felt as if I were being punished. Now, I am 50 years old, and I probably won't have any babies any time soon, but the hope and the promise of children in the life to come, is what sustains me.

So I will start with Sarah, and Hannah, and Rebekkah. Thank you for this challenge.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Karin from Denmark's Testimony

In honor of the six month anniversary of the women in the scriptures challenge Karin, a life long member of the LDS faith in Denmark, sent me this about how learning about the women in the scriptures has impacted her. Thanks Karin! I'm still accepting post for those of you who are thinking about it.

I found your blog by incident one day I was googling something (can't remember what it was) and your site came up and I "got stuck". Read one post after the other, day after day and about a month ago I came upon "The challenge". I just knew the very second I saw it that I had to take it. I felt the Spirit so strong; just like my chest was too small for my breath. I couldn't not do it after that. The full challenge.

It literally has been years since I've been so exited about the scriptures. I love reading, pondering, searching and last but not least talking about them. It feel like I have "a crush on the scriptures". Last time I heard myself babbling on and on like that was when I first met my husband.

I've started out with Doctrine & Covenants for two reasons. First, there aren't too many women in that book so if I read it last I would probably think it was a little boring (well, that's how I thought) and second, we're going to Palmyra and Kirtland this summer and I wanted to brush up on the things that happened there.

When I study I look for women and Heather, you were right! Women or the mentioning of something related to them jump up from the pages as I go along. And I get so excited about it every time. Also I get many other wonderful insights and teaching from what I read as well. I have my notebook with me - a big one, of course - and write down what I learn, what I know, what I think and what I feel.

So far I have especially noticed and learned that women are equal to men - both in personal responsibility, worth and potential. We are different, but equally loved. Well, I knew it before, but I feels fantastic to "discover it" all over again.

I still need to learn how to find all sorts of historic material on the women I "meet" but for now I enjoy what I can find.

This challenge not only gives me great joy for the women of the scriptures, me (and all women) and my responsibilities, worth and potential, but I experience so many things about the personality and ways of God too.

Heather, thank you for challenging me and for writing your fantastic blog.