Friday, December 15, 2017

Review of Mother’s Milk

Book: Mother’s Milk
Author: Rachel Hunt Steenblik 
Illustrator: Ashley Mae Hoiland
Press: BCC Press
Published: July 2017 

Many a nursing mother knows the long, still moments where she can get lost in her thoughts but her hands and heart are so full that she cannot record them. Rachel solves that problem with tiny poems quickly recorded in those still moments. I don't picture Rachel as another poet solitarily sitting in front of a typewriter, I envision her in those moments so familiar to me. I used to love those times, not just because of the power of oxytocin, cuddles and motherbaby love but because I felt my mind growing and expanding during those years when I had time to really sit and think. Each poem reads like a nursing session where a snippet of an idea or memory of a conversation with a friend, or scripture or topic of study rolls around the tired mind of a mother whose heart is full of love and yearning. Out of the sometimes sleep muddled morass comes frequently witty, always earnest thoughts that she then could shape into poems. 

Throughout the volume, I was amused time and again by little snippets of familiar children’s books, songs and stories. ‘Are You My Mother?’ by PD Eastman gets an allusion as well as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. These are the waking moments where a mother’s mind wanders and connects the prosaic moments of early childhood with big ideas and concepts deeply held within a mother’s heart which contains her earnest wishes not only for her children, but also for herself and all women the world over.

Mother’s Milk is a reflection and a query into who is Heavenly Mother. When God is conceived of as female, who is she? What is she like? How does she talk. Rachel shows us She is witty, She is clever, She is there in the small moments and in the life defining moments, always loving us. The volume also reads like a book of prayer for mothers, daughters and believers in the divine feminine. Many of the tiny poems contain entreaties to God, to know Her and be known by Her, as well as a prayer that She will not just be known by the one or the few but that news of Her love will fill the earth and transform religion and by extension society too. 

In this volume, Rachel reveals herself to not only be a scholar and religious historian but also a modern Mormon Mystic who may be making history of her own with these poems. Rachel was part of the team that published A Mother There as well as co-editor of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. This represents her debut as a feminist theologian and poet and I could not be more in love with this collection. 

I know that I personally will cling to this book as a reminder of early motherhood with my babies; it will continue to be a way to help me connect again with those times that are now gone in my children’s lives. While deeply personal, it’s vision of transformative faith extends much further than my memories and to a global awareness and power of faith in the female divine. 

It is my hope that this book will transcend the boxes of modern religion and make it’s way into the hands and hearts of Christians,  agnostics and spiritual people the world over even if for them it is an exercise in imaginative and literary religious studies. For some of Rachel’s readers, this book represents our faith and our hope for a future where Mother God and Father God rule and reign as equal partners in the eternities, thereby providing a model to emulate for the rest of us. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Celebrating Hanukkah

This year, my family is planning to celebrate Hanukkah, largely because of our study of the Book of Mormon that teaches us that we are of the House of Israel so in a sense the story of the Jewish people is the story of our people since the people of God are one family. In teaching children about culture, history and religion, Hanukkah is a great hands on way of learning a Bible story and honoring miracles, God, prayer, temples and covenant-keeping people.

Here is our plan:
Night 1: Open the Menorah and Light the first candle, listen to the prayers.
Night 2: Read a story introducing Hanukkah and its origins: The Story of Hanukkah
Night 3: Read a story introducing Hanukkah and its traditions: Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah
Night 4: Gift Dreidels and play the dreidel game
Night 5: Gift small sacks of chocolate gold coins
Night 6: Gift small bags of money
Night 7: Gift Hanukkah cookie cutters
Night 8: Gift books about the next holidays we will celebrate: Winter Solstice and Christmas.

Obviously, each night the appropriate candle will be lit and the prayers will be played.

For our daily storytimes, I found a couple of books of Jewish folklore at the library and will read a short story a day.

Hanukkah starts on Dec 8th this year. In Sammy Spider's book, there are recipes for latkes and jelly filled rolls so we will experiment with those recipes, and of course bake cookies with the cookie cutters.

Last year, on the fourth night of Hanukkah, I had the privilege and blessing to attend a birth of a baby to a Jewish father. The mother was in labor at the traditional time to light the candle, but it was not too late after the baby was born and the midwives (myself included) were packing up to go. We all gathered together; while the father knelt with his new baby in his arms and said the prayers and lit the candles. It was beautiful and I felt the profound sweetness of the moment.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bedtime story

There was once a young ballerina who loved to dance. She knew many techniques and steps and could do them quite well. When she danced, the techniques flowed from one to another with such ease it was like body was telling a story. She could dance her emotions and feelings with such grace and when she danced, she felt very joyful. However, this was her experience when she danced alone, with no one looking. Whenever there was anyone around her, she got very shy and she found it very difficult to dance with the ease, grace and confidence she felt when she was by herself. Her stage fright caused her a great deal of stress, especially when it came to performing with her dance school or when demonstrating her skill to her teachers. Even her parents watching caused her to feel quite shy.

One day, she decided to pray for help overcoming her shyness. She prayed to her Father and Mother in Heaven and asked them to help her dance in front of other people the way she knew could when she was alone. As she listened in stillness at the end of her prayer, she felt the words come into her mind, "You have a talent that should not be hidden. This is your gift to share with the world and you are called to this work. Your dance will be an instrument of joy to others."

With that, she realized her purpose to dance and perform, to share her talent with others and in this particular way, she would bring joy and add something lovely to the lives of those who watched her perform. In time, her dance flowed just as easily from her body when she danced in front of an audience as when she was dancing alone.

As she matured and her acclaim grew, she also felt called to teach others to dance in the way that came so naturally to her. She realized providing a beautiful display of artistry was nice but that teaching others to develop the skills for them to feel the joy she felt while dancing was even more meaningful.

She became well-known for not only her own joyous and beautiful performances, but as a kind and wise teacher of dance to her community.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Be Unafraid to Dissent--If We Are Well-Informed

"We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to
dissent -- if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression." ...

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts." 

"Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We should all be interested in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue to explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration.

We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts."

-Hugh B Brown  Brigham Young University, March 29, 1958.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The missing symbol

"[I]n fairy tales, to loosen the girdle, undo the knot means to begin to understand something previously closed to us, to understand its applications and uses, to become mage-like, a knowing soul."

When it comes to aspects of the temple, there are many symbols that I have pondered over for years. I was first endowed in 2004 and have gone back to the temple to do proxy-work but also because I have enjoyed the process of pondering and figuring out the symbols there. Recently, I posted about insights regarding the veil worn by women as well as the hearken covenant. As I was reading WWRWW, I came across the meaning of a symbol that I had been missing an explanation for--that of the girdle. Right there on page 156.

I have to think that this symbol might have been more easily understood of nineteenth century Latter-day Saints who were likely more versed in fairy tales than their current day counterparts. Another reason to educate people from the classics rather than textbooks...

Of particular interest is the concept of becoming "mage-like, a knowing soul" because that is the purpose of the temple ceremony: to know God, in fact to know so much about the nature of God that one is prepared to be like God, priests and priestesses, kings and queens. When tying the girdle on the second time in the temple, it then becomes a symbol of advancing light and knowledge, moving from one level of understanding and ability to another. Once that change has been made, one is prepared to enter into the presence of God.

I love that I am at a place in my spirituality where I am unlocking these symbols and ideas. I had always wondered how it had been done. My approach may be unconventional but I'm so glad that it is working for me. 

Welcoming the New Girl

I am remiss that I did not post this here earlier but it has come up in recent days. I heard that there is going to be a gathering of LDS women to talk about ways to plan and execute a blessing ceremony like the one I did and then the topic came up again over at the Exponent about ways that LDS women can be priestesses in their homes and lives. Here on my blog I tell a more personal journey to priestesshood that is separate from the church. The opportunity to welcoming a my new baby girl into my family was one of the first I've had since I started walking that path.

Originally, her blessing party was supposed to happen with her still inside me and it was going to be a mother's blessing for me in preparation to childbirth. Alas, she was born a little earlier than I anticipated. I was pleased to still have the party and with the help of some wonderful friends, I did very little in preparation for it (i.e. I showered and fed a baby, and made a phone call or two to order things for the party).

The prayer circle was so touching that I wanted a way to record it and share the words spoken with Elizabeth as she grew up. Click on the link below to view the book I look forward to sharing it with her as she grows older.

Welcoming the New Girl: a Photo Book and Slideshow

Thank you for being a part of welcoming my newest daughter as a reader of my blog. I hope you will add a hope/prayer/blessing/wish for her in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Evidenced by my earlier post, I am reading the book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. The author of it says, "Because the work cannot be read in a week or a month, it lends itself to being studied. Take your time reading it. Most people read it the way it was written. A little at a time, then go away, think about it and come back again."

Much like scripture, I dare to say. Due to the nature of the book, I am finding that I am indeed reading it like a great influential work that requires note taking, reflection and recording quotes. This what I intend this post to be, much like I did with the Book of Jenne and Carolyn--I will record thoughts and feelings I wish to retain. I will also be able to use the link here to share my thoughts with the book club I'll be participating in.

The book is structured as a compilation of stories  followed by the author's analysis and interpretation of the symbols in the story. For this reason I will put a bolded heading with the name of the story at the top, followed by links to posts with my reflections on that story and quotes that inspire those reflections.


An uncomfortable parallel
The dark man

Gnashing of Teeth
Witchy Women
Life and Death Natures


Skeleton Woman
The missing symbol