Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dear Women, What kind of women are we?

I am scared.  Certain themes are appearing in articles and comments in the media, and they scare me, because they mock the influence that we as women can have on the world.    

“Men should just control their thoughts.  They have their ability to choose what thoughts they have, so why does it matter if I dress immodestly?”

“There is a double standard in the church.  Women are supposed to be sexy enough to attract a man so that we can get married, but modest enough to not promote sexual thoughts.”

Those are just two themes that I have heard and seen recently.  And both are wrong.  

There are lots of different kinds of men in the world, but for now, I’m going to focus on two extremes to make my point.

There are men who don’t respect women.  They look at women to see their body, not the woman herself.  Then there are men who do respect women.  They look at women and yes, appreciate their body, but can still see the individual inside.  Now, let’s place these two kinds of men in a crowded area and have women walk through.  Who do you think the first kind of men will spend more time with?  My guess is women in tight or low cut or high cut clothes.  Why?  Because they want to see a pretty body, regardless of the woman.  Who do you think the second kind of man will spend more time with?  My guess is that they will spend more time with the women who dress and act modestly.  Why?   Because they want to respect the women they talk to, and that is easier to do when those women are dressing modestly. 

Now I’m done talking about men in the first group, and I’m going to talk about the men in the second group.  These men are living in a world filled with pornographic images, sexually explicit movies, and immodest women and girls.  They are trying desperately to control their thoughts, even though they can’t go through a single day without seeing someone or something that could trigger an immoral thought.  Yes, it is their responsibility to control their thoughts.  But those seeds are not their fault.  It comes from living in this world. 

Women, are we planting those seeds in their minds?  Would these men be comfortable around us?  Or would they turn away?  When I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, I spent a lot of time with my older brother and his friends.  One day, a girl with clothes that barely covered her walked past, and all the boys turned away so that they didn’t have to look at her.  They warned their other friends who hadn’t seen, and the formed a semi-circle away from the immodest dress to protect each other. 

There is no double standard in the teachings of the gospel on how we should dress.  The only thing I have ever been taught on this topic for my whole life is that we should dress and act in a way that does not bring unnecessary attention to ourselves.  That means covering your body and avoiding tight clothing and being kind, not rude.  The other half of this “double standard” is the media’s teachings, not Heavenly Father’s.  Being sexy enough to attract a man so that you can get married is NOT one of His teachings. 

Women, these ideas are a way that Satan is attacking us.  He is tearing families apart, and he’s doing it by filling our minds with lies.  Modest is a spiritual law, not a physical law.  Dressing modestly allows the Spirit to be with us, whereas immodest dress encourages improper behavior. 

He’s attacking us because we can be a force for good.  We as women can influence our families and friends in so many ways!  But Satan wants us to focus on mortal things so that we forget the immortal.  Heavenly Father lives!  He sent his son, Jesus Christ to pay for our sins and our pain.  He died for us, and rose on the third day.  We are daughters of God.  We are more than our bodies, and we are more than this world.  We need to stand up now and stop listening to the lies. 

Stop tearing down men.  They are good, and they need our help, just as we do theirs. 

Stop focusing so much on the things of this world.  Beauty is so much more a spiritual thing than it is a physical thing. 

Open your eyes!  Look for the beautiful things each day and learn to cherish them. 

I’m not angry, just scared.  I love my brothers, and my dad, and my husband.  Thinking about the amount of garbage that they have to see and avoid every day breaks my heart.  My children will grow up in a world much worse than the one we are in today.  And their children, too.

Women, let’s make a stand for what is right.  Let’s reevaluate our dress to make sure that we are helping men, rather than adding to the weight they have to carry.  Let’s learn what real beauty is, and strive to fill our lives with it.  Let’s make homes where our families can be safe from the lies of the world. 

Let’s be modest. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Love as told by Jane Eyre and a tree

One of my favorite books is Jane Eyre.  I’m only going to tell you a small portion of the story, so you should read it, too.  It’s the story of an orphan girl named Jane Eyre (surprise!) who becomes a governess.  She falls in love with her master, Mr. Rochester, who is an angry man with a hidden past.  Even though he is ornery and has a past filled with mistakes, Jane can see that he is trying to be better, which is part of the reason she loves him.  He secretly loves her, but wants to be certain that she loves him in return before he tells her.

One night, after being convinced that he is going to marry another woman, Jane tries to avoid him by walking through the gardens of the manor.  He follows her and talks about the “bride” that he has chosen, trying to get her to show her true feelings.  I love Jane’s character.  She is very mild and does what she is told more often than not.  But on a few rare occasions, she speaks her thoughts with such clarity and purpose that those who are her “superiors” cave to her will.  I love it!  She does that now, and tells Mr. Rochester that despite their stations, they are equals in God’s eyes.  He proposes to her, and though she doesn’t believe him at first, she eventually accepts.

This whole conversation takes place under an oak tree in the garden.  As they are sitting there, a storm approaches, and the tree is hit by lightning, splitting it in two.  They run inside and announce to everyone that they are engaged, and everything seems great.  That tree, the one hit by lightning, eventually dies, much like Jane’s dreams do on their wedding day.  After a long time, a seed takes root in between the large broken pieces of the tree.  This is a symbol of love.  It doesn’t give up, and it holds on even when it seems there is no hope.

I want to tell you about a time when I found a tree like this one.  It was on a mountain near a camp ground where I was attending a camp for youth in my church.  I was having the time of my life, but I was nervous for the testimony meeting that evening.  Because I was one of the youth who helped plan the camp, I felt responsible to say something during that meeting.  A testimony meeting is a time set aside for anyone to share how they feel about the gospel.  All day, whenever I thought about it, I couldn’t focus.  So when I had the impression to go for a walk, I didn’t hesitate to take a break and to just think.

I walked down a road until I found a little meadow with a tree in the middle.  After I sat on a log by the tree, I realized that it was part of the tree, but had been split off, probably by a heavy snow from years before.  Both parts of the tree – the one standing and the one fallen on the ground – were still sending out leaves and continuing to grow.  Instantly, I thought of Jane Eyre, and the tree in the gardens.  And almost as quickly, I thought about love. 

You see, I had become very bitter during my senior year, which had just ended before the camp started.  I had been hurt, and instead of reaching out for help, I pulled way back inside myself.  Instead of reaching out and serving the other people in my high school, I waited for them to serve and love me.  If they didn’t, neither did I.  I refused to open my heart and love them. 

For a week straight, I had the opportunity to serve people whom I had never met before.  And all of a sudden, I was filled with love.  Not Disney’s I-just-met-you-and-you’re-beautiful-so-let’s-get-married love, but God’s love.  I cared for the youth in the camp like I had never cared for people before.  I wanted them to be happy so badly that it hurt!  And the trick was serving them.

I had thought that I needed to be whole to love someone.  I had thought that I needed to be loved before I could let go, but that’s not how God works.  He loves us no matter what, regardless of whether or not we love Him in return.  The trick to love like God does is to serve. 

I sat on that tree and bawled.  Not only had I learned to love again, but I felt as though I was healed.  All of the emotions that I had been holding inside for so long were gone.  Honestly, I don’t know how it works.  But I know that because I served the people in the camp, I felt God’s love for them and for me.  I know that through Christ’s atonement, my pain was taken away. 

So when you are feeling lost, serve someone.  When you feel fear, serve someone.  When you need a friend, serve someone.  And I promise you that you will feel Heavenly Father’s love for that person and for you, and He will let you know that you are never alone. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Remember Who You Are

When I was a freshman in college, I met a little old lady named Donna.  I had gone for a walk to the temple that day when I passed her house.  She was getting her mail just then, and said hello.  I don’t know why I stopped to talk with her, but I did.  We chatted for a couple minutes, after which she invited me to stop by whenever I wanted to.

It was during this time that my own grandma was diagnosed with cancer.  I had no car, and very few opportunities to be with my grandma or help her in any way.  So I adopted Donna as a grandma.  I felt better after visiting with her, and I hoped that she felt better as well.  It was obvious that she was lonely, so I let her talk.  She told me her life story, her concerns, and her goals.  No matter what she talked about, something she said would be exactly what I needed to hear at that time.

One day, Donna told me that she was afraid of losing her memory.  For her age, she had an impressive memory, but she was beginning to forget little things, and even names of people she knew.  She told me about a conversation that she had with a relative about memory.  This person asked her if she could remember who she was.  She replied, “Yes, my name is Donna, and I’m a daughter of God.”  They replied, “Well, that’s all you need to know.”

I’ve thought about that a lot since then.  Even with all of her concerns, health problems, and heartache, Donna was happy.  She knew who she was, and it brought her peace.
I decided to write this blog after a stressful day when I was feeling a little lost.  I got out a note book and wrote on the top of the page, “Who am I?”  This is the list I came up with.
1- I am Kylie Maria Lawson.
2- I am a wife.
3- I am a Mormon.
4- I am a daughter of God.

I think that half the battle in this life is learning who we are and then remembering.  Because after I wrote out that list, I was able to feel calm again.

God is our Father.  He loves us.  Yes, we have to lean to choose the right.  We have weaknesses to overcome.  But I believe that as we turn to God in prayer and scripture study, He will show us that we are His and He loves us and has a plan for us.  He will show us that plan and lead us back to Him.  And knowing that we are His can give us strength and power like nothing else can.  The most powerful force in the world is love, and the only thing more powerful than loving someone else is being loved.

So do me a favor.  If you aren’t sure who you are, say a prayer.  It doesn’t have to be long or flowery.  Just ask God if He is there and if He knows you.  I promise you that He will answer if you pray in faith.

Remember who you are!  Because you are His.