There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman. …[A]ll women have within their divine nature both the inherent talent and the stewardship to mother…. –Elder M. Russell Ballard, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
There were several women I met on my mission who have influenced me for good. I actually had about 15 but I figured that could get a little long so I narrowed it down to 10 and wrote a paragraph next to each woman stating what I learned from them and why they changed my life.
Shirley Davis: All over her house are lighthouses, which is a perfect symbol and metaphor for the role she has played in the lives of others. She is a beacon and a light to those who are lost and need to get back on track. Shirley was a social worker and has had several foster children over the years. She is full of unconditional love and renders service to all she sees in need…no questions asked. She also has an unbelievable sense of hope for those individuals others would see as lost. She can see their potential as children of God, helps them figure out what they want in life and is a supportive cheerleader as they work to pull themselves out of bad habits and situations. Shirley is a strong woman and lets people know what she expects of them and shows full confidence that they can live up to it. When it comes to her response to negative behavior, she lives the teaching of the Savior in Doctrine & Covenants 121:43 “”Reproving betimes with sharpness…. and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love.” Her family, friends and those she has helped over the years know how much she loves them. I certainly have felt this whenever I have seen her. This woman has been a lighthouse in my life as an example of Christlike love. The Savior spent His time on earth with the beggars and the publicans even though others thought he was crazy for mingling with the “unclean”. Shirley has made a deep impression on me that I will never forget. She has taught me the importance of lifting the hands that hang down (Heb. 12:12) and has caused me to ask myself, yet again, “Are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah 4:19).
Sandi Graham: I met this dear woman when I was serving as a missionary in Newark, New York. She is a wonderful cook and has a heart of gold. I have had many conversations with her and have seen her love of Jesus Christ and His Gospel shine through everytime. Sandie has an unbelievable amount of trust in God. Even when things in her life have been difficult, she finds a way to recognize that God will take care of her and everything will work out right in the end. She works with the young women in the local congregation and encourages them to be strong and unified in their standands and faith. These girls look up to her as a woman of God. She has such a spunky personality and can see and feel the joy in gospel living . Sandie shares her love of Christ with her friends and family members simply because it means so much to her. She is very independent and strong with a sassy sense of humor. She also has a gift for teaching and can explain even complicated gospel concepts in a clear way. Its the small things she does, like the unseen support and a listening ear that make such a difference in others lives. She eminates energy and love. Plus, everytime I see her I always get a huge hug and a gorgeous smile. 🙂 Who wouldn’t love that? Love you Sandie!
Lynnette Morrison: There is so much I could say about the Morrisons! Sister Morrison would do anything for her family and children. She has seen her family struggle in different ways over the years and has consistently been a source of encouragement and love to help them through life’s trials. She pushes forward even when things aren’t perfect and has faith that if she does what God asks, He will help her family and friends. She has such a soft heart and her kids genuinely love being in their home. She creates an environment where other friends want to come and spend time together: a house full of sassy sarcasm, love and food. It’s no wonder that missionaries love to visit and share messages with their family. The first time I met them I felt instantly at home and their efforts to have a happy home didn’t go unnoticed. Lynnette has an undying hope in her children and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She is a pillar of strength just like her own mother. She recently sent off her oldest son on a mission to India. What a proud mama she must be!
Heidi Egan: Although I didn’t get a chance to know Heidi very well I think about her sweet family often. This picture is one that I took one day when 3 other sister missionaries and I went to their home for dinner. The kids were out back sitting on the grass singing together and playing the guitar. They have such a fun family. Their children are well-behaved, respectful, helpful and bubbly. I’m sure Heidi would say they have their moments…but don’t we all. 😉 One of the things I really admired about her was how she interacted with her children. She got excited about things they were excited about. They live the 13th article of faith and seek after uplifting forms of entertainment which is difficult to do in the world today. I just loved this family and certainly felt the spirit in their home. A few months after I moved to a new area, their house burnt down. They were safe but weren’t left with much physically except a few things that were preserved like food storage…What does that tell you? Get your food storage together and spread it throughout your house. 😉 I have asked other missionaries serving in the area how their family is doing. They all have said that they seem to be doing amazing and an outsider wouldn’t even be able to tell that they had been through such a difficult trial. That is real faith in God.
Lauri Grier: One thing I know about Sister Grier is that she doesn’t exactly enjoy being in the limelight, so the fact that I am writing something like this about her is probably not something she is too excited about but she has made an impression on me in the 2 times I served as a missionary in the town of Palmyra…so too bad Sister Grier. 😉 Lauri is very selfless and often thinks of what she can do for others before herself. She has one beautiful daughter at home named Emily who is a very talented musician and sings in the Bach Children’s Chorus in Rochester, New York. Mom has been very supportive over the years and enjoys watching Emily perform and sing wherever she goes. She works with the young women in the Palmyra ward and has practically adopted some of them as her own with her love, support and concern for them. I have been to their home a few times for meals and to share a spiritual message or thought. I have been impressed everytime with the spirit in their home. Lauri met her husband later in life and you can just feel the love when you go to visit. Her priorities and dedication to God in her daily life are evident even in the pictures of Christ and the temple throughout her home. Sister Grier has a funny sense of humor and puts people at ease with her genuine interest in their lives. She has made an impression on me with her wonderful example of quietly and steadfastly living the gospel.
Emily Bylund: Best Cook Ever! My companion, Sister Carter, and I loved going to their house for dinner. Sister Bylund always had some unique meal planned. We had fantastic soups, eggplant bites and of course it was all healthy. She has 2 little girls who love her dearly. She served as Relief Society President when I was there, which means that you are responsible for the spiritual welfare of the women in the congregation where you attend. It is a huge role to fill especially living near the city of Rochester where there is often a lot of need physically and emotionally. She does all this while raising 2 daughters. She really magnifies her role as a mother and I have seen her teach her girls new things about life and God while sitting at the dinner table. I truly admire her dedication and strength in difficult and stressful times. If you want to make some of the amazing things I tasted at her house, check out her blog at: http://bakingwithbigred.blogspot.com/
Paige Porter: If you haven’t met the Porter family you are truly missing out. These kids are bright with tons of personality. Possibly one of my favorite times in church while living in Rochester was when one of her sweet children would stand at the pulpit and give us all some good advice about life including some type of metaphor to really drive the point home. I remember thinking, “Wow. Their mother must really make it a priority to teach them about the gospel in the home.” Once I got to know Sister Porter I realized that her dedication to God is her number one priority. She has five beautiful children, two of which were adopted and sealed to their family in a Holy Temple of God. This is a place where families are bound together for time and eternity. Paige knows the gospel and has been teaching it for years, no doubt starting long before her mission in Korea. One of the other things that has impressed me about Sister Porter is that she takes time to listen to people. She doesn’t rush out of a conversation. You can tell she genuinely cares about you and what you are saying. She is soft spoken and is very respectful of her children which explains why they respect her so much. She is a very bright woman and has had several opportunities to work outside the home but has chosen to dedicate her time to raising her family. She recognizes how fortunate she is to be able to do so. That doesn’t mean she isn’t involved in the community, however. Paige worked and help with the Habitat for Humanity project in Rochester, New York as well as church callings and other assignments over the years that have kept her busy as a bee. I believe that a woman of God can have a substantial influence in her community and in her home. Paige Porter is the epitomy of this.
Allison Welch: I don’t know if I have ever met a stronger woman than Ally. She is 21 and was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a little less than a year ago. She was raised inRochester, New York and has been through some extremely difficult things in her life, so it was no doubt – a transition – into the “mormon lifestyle.” Ally is my hero. She has a beautiful little 4 year old named Naomi who is her entire world. Allison’s faith has pulled her through so many things when it seemed like there was no way out. She loves the missionaries and is such an amazing missionary herself. She shares with everyone her story of how God lifted her up and changed her to become the amazing woman she is today. She has a way with people and can connect with anyone. There is such a genuine reality to her testimony that eminates from her spirit. I remember when I first met Ally and the her tough exterior convinced me that I may never connect with this girl…which is of course what she thought about Sister Carter and I with our preppy outfits and missionary nametags. But today I can honestly say Ally is one of my best friends. She is braver than anyone I know and refuses to give up even when the world tells her that its too hard to make a real change. I love you girl!
Sandy Harris: It was only a few weeks away from Christmas 2010 when I met Sandy Harris. My missionary companion and I were volunteering at the local “Cookie Walk”. People in Penn Yan and the surrounding areas donate cookies to raise money for the Keuka Comfort Care (a place that provides free, compassionate end of life care in a homelike setting to terminally ill residents of Yates County and surrounding communities). Then, people come, fill a box with cookies, weigh them and pay. Sandy and I were weighing the cookies together. Her upbeat attitude and sense of humor is just contagious. She is honestly the most welcoming woman I have ever met. She invited us up to visit any time so one day we stopped in. She fed us, we talked and she invited us back for Bible study. Sandy is constantly looking outside herself to see how she can make others feel at ease and loved. She and her husband Ron are used to entertaining visitors on a regular basis and always help people to feel right at home. She loves her family and it is evident by the array of photographs throughout the house. I have admired her gift of charity from day one. I hope to one day develop some of those traits that have blessed the people of Penn Yan and all those she comes in contact with.
Maria Gray: (also known as “The Card Lady”) We met Maria in Penn Yan, New York at a community dinner she was helping with for people in the area who want a good meal, in a safe place, for free. She is so incredibly giving and does everything she can to help lift others and make them feel important. She was doing that constantly for my companion Sister Maughan and me. She is open minded and will ask questions about things she is genuinely curious about. One of the things I really admire about her is her hobby of collecting cards. She buys them whenever she gets the chance (mostly blank cards) and sends them to random people when she feels prompted. You never know when you are going to get a nice card out of the blue from Maria. Sister Maughan and I were visiting someone one day and looked over at her table and there sat one of Maria’s famous cards. She is very in tune with the Spirit and can sense the needs of others. Her faith in God and Jesus Christ is what grounds her. I love this woman! 🙂