Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Common Word Between Us

Thirteen years ago today I was watching Sesame Street with 10-month-old Vicki.  When the show ended, I changed the channel, hoping to find something more grown-up to watch, and instead was bombarded with broadcast after broadcast of terrible news that forever changed our nation.  The juxtaposition of pure innocence with abject terror is something I will never be able to get out of my mind, and I remember looking at Vicki and wondering what kind of world she would know.  I will never forget the way Americans joined together during the last few months of 2001, and I will always remember and honor the victims and the heroes who lost their lives that day.

Several years ago I read a book that moved me tremendously, and I posted about it here on the blog.  It feels appropriate to share those thoughts again today.  It is my hope and prayer that, in honor of those who have lost their lives to senseless violence, we remember that we are all God's children, brothers and sisters, a part of the human race, and it is our responsibility to find the things we have in common with each other and embrace them, rather than seeking out our differences and allowing those to rule us.

It's true that Vicki knows a different world than I did when I was her age, but the events of 9/11 are not the only reason for that.  There have been many good changes to go along with the bad.  And I firmly believe that the best thing I can do for her, and for Lexi and Ellie, is to teach them that, no matter who we are, what we believe, where we come from, or how we live our lives, we all have one thing in common: love.

And all you need is love, my children.

Love is all you need.


The following is the text of the post linked to above.

A few months ago I read a book called The Faith Club. It was written by three women – a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew – who met together in the wake of 9/11 to discuss their beliefs and to try to come to an understanding of each other. It was fascinating to follow the journey each of them made as they learned and reached out to each other. What on the surface seemed like a simple thing – a social gathering, a time to build friendships and learn a little from each other – became a turning point for all three as they struggled not only to understand the beliefs of the other two women but also to gain a deeper understanding and testimony of their own as they were challenged in ways they had never been before. It was inspiring. I have a friend who is an Orthodox Jew, and we’ve discussed our religions, and their similarities and differences. Reading this book made me wish I knew a Muslim woman, too, so I could start my own faith club. Of course, I’d probably include another Christian, of the more mainstream variety (I already have one in mind!), since Mormonism is different enough to warrant some discussion there as well.

Anyway, since reading this book, I have had such a desire to come to an understanding with people of different faiths. I’m not looking to agree with them, or have them agree with me. I just want to understand and find common ground. All three of these major world religions come from the same beginning. We are all Abraham’s seed. There are major doctrinal differences, things that will probably never be agreed upon, but we all pray to the same God, whether we call Him by the same name or not.

This brings me to the purpose of this post. Lately I have noticed that a lot of Christians (Mormons included) still seem to harbor ill will towards followers of Islam. The more I see or hear of this, the more it upsets me. I’ve been having a hard time sitting by quietly and allowing these things to go unchallenged. I suppose I can understand the sentiment behind the mindset; after all, terrible things have been done in this world in the name of Islam. However, I firmly believe that these things are being done by people who either do not fully understand the true message of their religion, or who chose to follow only select words, without giving heed to the full meaning in conjunction with the rest of their religious beliefs. I am no expert on Islam, and cannot even claim to be an expert on Christianity or Mormonism, but I do believe that none of these faiths condone the things that are being done in the world today in the name of God. It makes me sad to see the way all of Islam is being lumped together as a religion that tolerates, supports, and even encourages violent acts.

The truth is that, just like there are different sects of Christianity who hold to different sets of doctrine, there is a small portion of Muslims who believe it is the will of God that they engage in jihad, or holy war, against other nations. But this is not true of the majority of Muslims. It amazes me how we Christians are so willing to believe this misleading information when there is so much out there that gives incorrect “facts” about our own beliefs. There are websites dedicated to informing the world that all Mormons are polygamists and all of Mormonism is of the devil, in the same way that there are sites that would have the world believe that all Muslims are jihadists and that all Islam is evil. They’re out there; we’ve all seen them at some point, and when they’re about our own beliefs we’ve all been disgusted and outraged that anyone could be so misinformed and disrespectful about something we hold sacred. Why, then, can we be so willing to believe things about other religions without doing unbiased research. Ah, the appeal of a Faith Club…

I have been bothered by this for awhile now, feeling like I should say something to stand up for a people, who, in my experience and study, I have come to believe are generally kind and peace-loving, but I haven’t known how to go about it. Until yesterday, that is, when I read this article in The Oregonian. It talked about an open letter to Christians written and endorsed by many Muslim leaders. This letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us”, calls for an understanding between Muslims and Christians, using passages from both the Qur’an and the Bible to make its point. It establishes the fact that the two greatest commandments in both Islam and Christianity are to love God above all else and then to love your neighbors – all your neighbors. Who can argue with that? And, given that, who can really believe that Islam teaches unprovoked war with others?

I’m not writing this to start anything. I’m not necessarily even looking for comments this time (although they’re always welcome!) This is just something that has been on my mind for a long time, and I finally found a way to bring it together and put my thoughts and feelings down in print. I have a great love for my Father in Heaven, and for the faith that has led me to that love. But I also have a great respect for those who are strong in their own faith, even though it may not agree with mine. I want to learn as much as I can about those faiths so that I can understand my fellow men, and grow to love them as my neighbors. Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to take a look at the Common Word website, and to take some time to think a little bit about loving our God and loving our neighbors, and allowing all men the privilege to worship how, where, or what they may.

I will leave you with the concluding paragraph of “A Common Word”:

So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Tomorrow I begin nursing school.  It's been a long, slightly bumpy road to get to this point, and right now I'm alternating between feeling ecstatic that this is really happening and being terrified that this is really happening, but mostly (as cheesy as it sounds) I just really can't wait to take what feels like a huge leap in the path that will lead me to the career I've dreamed about for a long time now.

As part of the application process, I was asked to write two essays, one about what I would do to make sure I was successful if I were selected for the program, and one about why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place.  This poor blog has been neglected for so long, and I don't foresee any likelihood of more regular posting anytime in the near future, so I think it's fitting that I intentionally leave it with a post about why I'm doing what I'm doing.  I know my girls will read this one day, and I'd like them to know what motivated me.

So, without further ado, here is my response to the question "Why are you pursuing a career as a nurse?"

I haven’t always wanted to be a nurse.  In fact, for as long as I can remember, my plan was always to be a teacher.  After graduating from high school, I enrolled at a junior college as an elementary education major and earned an Associate’s degree.  I even taught for two years at a private school.  However, I took some time off from school, got married, and started a family, and at that point, pursuing a career of any sort was put on hold.

And then I met Bonnie.

My oldest daughter was born in a teaching hospital.  Over the course of my 12-hour labor, I was checked on and tested by a variety of people, but aside from my obstetrician, only one stands out in my memory.  Bonnie was a nursing student shadowing one of the other nurses on duty that night.  As my contractions ebbed and flowed and she observed the nurse in action, we were able to chat.  She was a grandma who had decided to change course and go back to school, and she was just beginning her clinicals in labor & delivery.  She hadn’t had the opportunity to witness a birth yet, so she was extremely excited at the prospect.  She was very professional, and also very talkative.  In fact, Bonnie reminded me of some of the women I’d known at church while I was growing up – big, kind, cheerful, and very friendly and chatty – and I was happy to have her there to help distract me from the labor pains.  My husband enjoyed her company, too.  We were young first-time parents, and she kept us smiling and talking with stories about her children and grandchildren, and about how excited she was to become a nurse and how proud she was to be doing so at her age.

As my labor progressed, it became apparent that, although it would be close, the baby wasn’t going to arrive before it was time for Bonnie to leave for class, and she asked if we would mind if she contacted her instructor for permission to skip the lecture so she could be there for the birth.  I suppose some people would have been happy to have as few people as possible in the room while they were giving birth, but I welcomed her presence.  She was so warm and cheerful, and it made me feel so honored that, even though she had only met me that night, she was so excited for the birth of my baby.  It made me feel special.  She received permission to stay, and a little while later our daughter was born.  After exclaiming over the baby and giving us her heartfelt congratulations, and thanking us for allowing her to be a part of something so special, she slipped out and went back to school.

I only had a few hours with her, and it has nearly been thirteen years, but I will never forget her.

Bonnie’s enthusiasm for nursing stayed with me.  I remembered her when I was in the hospital giving birth to my second and then third child.  Both were born in hospitals that were not affiliated with universities, so I never had the opportunity to interact with other nursing students.  The nurses attending me were all very nice, but having a Bonnie there to distract me from the contractions would have been very welcome.

Once we decided our family was complete, I began to entertain the idea of going back to school.  I had always assumed that I would continue on with the elementary education degree, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that that wasn’t what I really wanted after all.  Around this time, my husband mentioned to me a story he’d heard about a woman who was trained as a doula and was using her skills to assist teen mothers before, during, and after their deliveries.  This struck a chord with me.  As I considered my options and thought about different career paths, the memory of Bonnie’s presence during my labor, combined with the emotional response I’d had to the story about the doula, helped me to realize that what I really wanted, more than anything else, was to be able to be that kind of presence for somebody else.  I wanted to follow in Bonnie’s footsteps and become a nurse, ideally a labor & delivery nurse.

As a mother of three active children, I have had many interactions with nurses.  From regular pediatric checkups to appointments when they were sick to the occasional ER visit, the nurses have been the first to greet us.  Their kindness and patience, their support and reassurance and encouragement: all those qualities have always impressed me.  I so admire nurses and all that they do.  More often than not, they are the ones who first greet the patients.  They are with them through the ups and downs of sickness and health.  They are there for the joys and the sadnesses, the losses and gains, the good news and bad.  And I have found that I want so badly to be a part of that, to be able to be that support and comfort, to hold someone’s hand, and breathe with them, and to give hugs and encouragement and a shoulder to cry on.

I started life with a desire to teach, but as my life has evolved, and my experiences and situations have shaped who I have become, I no longer have that same desire.  I still enjoy working with children, but now my desire and enthusiasm lies in nursing.  As cliché as it sounds, I want to help people, but even more than that, I want to simply be there for them.

I want to be somebody else’s Bonnie.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Month of Gratitude, Day 11

I know today is Veteran's Day, and many people are expressing their thanks for those who have served our country.  I am definitely thankful for them, but this post today needs to be devoted to something, or, rather, someone else.

Chris's Grandma Ebert is my favorite person in the world.  The first time I met her was when Chris took me to a family Christmas party soon after we began dating.  She scared me to death because she announced to pretty much the entire extended family that she liked me.  We hadn't even kissed yet, so I was not ready for the grandma to become attached.  Six months later, when he was getting ready to leave for his two-year mission for our church, she said, "Maybe he should just stay home so we can get you while you're still available!", which also scared me to death, because, come on, the missionary's grandmother is not supposed to say things like that!

When we told her we were getting married, her response was a jubilant "Yipee!", complete with an arm thrown in the air for emphasis.  It's nice to have Grandma's approval.

Ellie's full name is Elizabeth, and she is named to honor her great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth VanDam Ebert.  Interestingly, the daughter we chose to name after her also happens to be the one who inherited her personality.

I could relate so many more stories about this amazing woman - her wicked sense of humor, her fierce independence, her undying devotion to her husband through his declining years, her quick wit, and her wonderful stories about growing up as one of 14 children - but I'll share just one more.  Today, November 11, is her 92nd birthday.  She likes to tells us how, when she was little, her family would go to the Veteran's Day parade in downtown Salt Lake City, and she thought it was so wonderful that the whole city was throwing a birthday parade just for her.

So, today I'm thankful for Grandma Betty, a beautiful and delightful woman whom I am privileged to know and love.  And I'm thankful that one day I will get to carry the title of Grandma Ebert, which I will forever associate with her.

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Month of Gratitude, Day 10

It's no surprise to anyone who's read my blog for the past year that there are some things about my church that make me uncomfortable.  I have been going through a faith transition of sorts lately, perhaps something that is long overdue, really, considering that I was born and raised Mormon and have never strayed from the church.  Mormons are prone to saying "I know" when talking about their beliefs regarding the church, and for many years that has made me uncomfortable.  There are not a lot of things that I can say I know for sure - I may believe them, but I don't know them - but the one things I feel I can say that I do know is that God loves me.  And today I'm thankful for the faith I have that allows me to know that.

What are you thankful for today?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Month of Gratitude, Day 9

I spent all day today learning the ins and outs of being a dance mom.  Lexi joined her middle school dance team this year, and today they performed at their very first competition.  They were the only middle school team, so their performance was just an exhibition, meaning they weren't judged, but it gave them a chance to practice in front of a larger audience than just their coaches and a handful of parents.  There are only 9 girls on the team, but they got up there in front of all those high schoolers and the packed audience and brought their very best, and I'm proud to say they rocked it!

I heard several people comment on how sassy Lexi was (she's the last one to take her place - you be the judge).  She was definitely in her element.  She loves performing, and today I'm so thankful that she has the chance to express herself, and to be a part of a team while doing something she loves.

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Month of Gratitude, Day 8

About three years ago my friend Rachel and I decided that it wasn't enough to share books with each other, so we started a book club with other women in our neighborhood.  Since then, I have read all kinds of books that I never would have chosen on my own.  Some of them I have discovered that I love (like this month's book, The Sisters Brothers), and some I'll be happy if I never see it again (To the Lighthouse, unfortunately, and also anything written or edited by Tom Perotta), but either way, I love that not only am I trying out books and genres I might never have opened otherwise, but I'm also getting the chance to discuss them with a group of women I have grown to love.  Today, I am thankful for my book club.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Month of Gratitude, Day 7

Thirteen years ago I became a mother.  And now this little cutie:

Has turned into this beautiful young woman:

Vicki came into this world friendly, optimistic, and cheerful, and nothing has changed.  She is always finding the positive in things, and her sense of humor is fantastic.  I'm so proud to be her mother, and I'm happy to be her friend.

I'm thankful for all my girls, but today, on the day she becomes a teenager, I'm especially thankful for Vicki.

What are you thankful for today?
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