There have been some words and ideas revolving around in my head over the last six or so years. I think it is time for me to release them to the wind and hopefully find a home with someone out there.
When my oldest child turned 18, my thoughts turned to the idea that at any time we could be faced with the prospect of she, and some special person in her life, approaching my husband and I with the announcement that they were engaged. At the time there was no special person in her life but, as mothers do, I was mentally preparing myself for that day.
The thought that struck me at the time was whether she was ready for it or not. Or maybe whether I was ready for it. I wondered if we as parents had been able to prepare her for such a responsibility. I pondered on this, and wondered if we had missed something in that preparation (I figured that if I did come up with something, then I would still have time to make it right – ever the mother who thinks she can make everything alright).
What I came up with scarred me almost to death.
She was beautiful, well mannered, making all the right choices in her life, and, most importantly, had a strong testimony of, and grounding in, the gospel. As parents we had ensured that she had been provided with all that she needed as guidance along the way.
But what she needed now, was something we couldn’t give her. It was something that only she could find for herself.
What I feared the most was that I wasn’t sure she had found her own voice.
What do I mean by this?
Elder Uchtdorf gave a wonderful talk in April 2010, where he addressed the fairytale term Happily Ever After. He suggested that for each of us to find that happily ever after, it would mean facing certain things in our lives. The main thing being trials. He said,
“Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy”.
Indeed, the scriptures teach us that, “…there is an opposition in all things…” 2 Nephi 2:11
But, there is more to what I mean than even just this. It is buried deep in the words, “come unto Christ”. In these three simple words there is locked away a multiplicity of deeds, actions, and strength of beliefs. Sherry L. Dew, spoke about this in 1997 at the October General Relief Society Meeting, when she said,
“…there is a direct relationship between how we feel about Jesus Christ and how we see ourselves. We cannot increase our devotion to the Savior without also obtaining a greater sense of purpose, identity, and conviction”.
Those words resonate with me, “…how we see ourselves“. I knew our daughter knew and understood how we saw her, but I wasn’t sure that she was clear on how she saw herself. Did she know that her opinion mattered? Did she know that she had something to contribute to this world? Did she know that her voice mattered in the scheme of things?
Well, as I pondered on what it would take for her to find purpose, identity, and conviction, I thought about the amazing young men in the church. At 19 years of age, they pack up suitcases, leave home and venture into the unknown world, to preach the gospel, find routine in their days, learn to rely on their own testimonies and make complex decisions for themselves and for others. It is within this kinds of individual and personal journey that they are able to expand purpose, identity, strength, conviction, wisdom, and experience the resulting joys.
I wondered where my daughter was going to get this kind of experience. Yes, she could wait another couple of years and she would be able to serve a mission too. But I wasn’t sure that she would get to that point before that special young man came into her life. How was she to navigate the complexities of marriage and family if she had not found such depth through similar experiences. Was her voice going to be heard above the tests of life that lay ahead of her, or was it going to be drowned out by those challenges?
What I did come to realise, is that it was going to take a change on my part to allow her to find that voice. A determination to step back and allow her to make serious decisions about her future, without my intervention or unsolicited promptings. But, even more so, it took a determination on my part to encourage her to step outside her comfort zone, so that she could come to understand her purpose, her identity, and the strength of her convictions, without the daily promptings of a protective mother and father.
So, as I have moved down the path since that realisation six years ago, I have recognised the wisdom of it all. At age 20 our oldest daughter made the choice to move out of home, and relocate to another state. She determined to meet any challenges placed before her, and to find the individual voice she so clearly has. She was placed in situations in that time that required her to find out for herself who the Savior was in her life and, more completely, what it means to come unto Him. I have seen the difference it has made in her sense of purpose, in her sense of identity, and her courage of conviction.
That voice has since expanded into a duet. Now, with her eternal companion, my daughter works in harmony with the Lord to prepare for the challenges that lay before them.
Since that time we have also fair welled another daughter on a mission, and yet a third one to study in another country. As hard as it has been to let each of them go, I know that as they exercise the voice they have, they will be prepared to sing the songs of life in harmony, expressing their testimony of the Lord and His restored gospel along the way.