Two weeks ago, my husband and boys went on the annual Fathers' and Sons' campout. It may potentially be my favorite weekend of the year to only have boys. Not really, but, admittedly, by-myself time is sort of awesome. I put a lot of things on the to-do list, including a temple trip for the Saturday.
I waved the boys goodbye on Friday night and the started in on my list. It included some working. Stupid on my night to myself, yes, but I love working when I can just get EVERYthing done without having to keep somebody else's agenda. Then there was a trip to the mall where I bought shoes and sat in the food court and read cheesy chick lit and ate fries. I cleaned the house and started in on my girlie movie WAY too late. After the girlie movie, the first season of Once Upon a Time beckoned to me from my library DVD rentals.
It was one o'clock in the morning, but what is the harm in just ONE episode, right? Wrong! Three episodes . . . or was it four? later it was nearing 3:30 in the morning. The temple wasn't looking so good (nor was the series, by the way, but I'm pretty much completely hooked on it now), and I fell asleep on the couch, disliking myself. For the late night and the fact that popcorn after fries might be too much.
Alarm goes off. I can't sleep anyway because I'm too warm and uncomfortable, so I lay there a long time debating whether or not I was even safe to take the three hour plus round trip in the car to get there and back. Duty won out and I hit the road about two hours later than my original intention.
On the way I decided that initiatories would need to be the order of the day, as there was no possible way I could stay awake in a session. As I pulled into the last parking lot available in the entire lot of the Portland temple, I noted that I was right next to our visitor center. It is pretty small potatoes, but still lovely, and manned (womaned?) by the sister missionaries in the Portland mission. My lovely friend from Texas, SarahB, who was present for the birth of Padawan, has a daughter that was called to the Portland mission a year or so ago. I have inquired after her a few times in the visitor's center but haven't had any luck. I considered stopping that day, but decided not to as I was already running so far behind.
And then, it happened, on my way up the stairs, I saw SisterB, whom I've only seen in photos for eleven years. She is lovely and grown up, and so like her mother that I nearly cried. I introduced myself and she had a vague recollection of our living down there. I gushed a bit about how much I love her mom and what it meant for me to have SarahB there when Padawan was born. Bless her sister missionary heart, she took the crazy lady in stride, and I walked into the temple feeling unexpectedly overcome by emotion.
The feeling persisted, niggling in around the edges, when I saw one of the sisters I served my mission with. This was not a huge coincidence, incidentally. SistaT works in our temple on Saturdays and I often see her there--what is crazy, however, is that she is actually from Tonga and moved to this area years after our mission service. She is the only one from my mission days that I see regularly, oddly enough. And yet, despite seeing this lovely, huggable sister regularly, there was something more meaningful about it that day.
The initiatory room was a little backed up, so I sat and waiting. As I waited and listened to the soft murmuring of priesthood blessings given in women's voices, that feeling around the edges just crept into my heart and the tears started pouring. I thought of SarahB's strong voice and hands the night of Padawan's birth. I thought of those lovely sisters from my mission from whom I learned so much about heartache and trial and lasting joy. I let the murmured blessings of the priesthood pour over me--and I felt myself to be an integral part of them. Birth as sacrament. Mission as consecration. Priesthood as the shared gift to men and women. Power. Glory. Dominion without end.
At that moment, my former relief society president walked into the room and did a double take as she saw me crying. No doubt she felt compelled to comfort but was unsure if I wanted to be left in peace. It was really a lot of crying. But crying for such happiness that I couldn't contain it. When I saw Sister RS my mind turned to all those powerful women in my life who have blessed me--if not with their hands directly, then with their sincere service, abiding love and powerful examples.
I felt the love of my Father, and, dare I say it? My Mother. It was a feeling profound and deep and special. It was not an entirely unfamiliar feeling, but it has been a long time since the Spirit has overcome me so. In that sacred place of women, I felt an enveloping love of feminine divine--my own, and Something so much larger than myself that I wept for trying to hold it. In the hour afterward I tried to write about it and couldn't express what I wanted to say; the following Sunday I bore testimony, and powerfully, but still missed the heart of what I was trying to get at. Even now, I find myself clumsy and awkward and without adequate words for describing what it was that I knew down into my very cells in that moment. She is real. We are Her daughters. We will see Her lovely face one day.
The love of thousands of generations of women was held in my heart for a brief time--and it was such a awesome blend of gratitude and humility and power that I went forward changed. The experience has lingered in my mind and heart for these many days, and it has compelled me to say thank you. To any woman reading here. Thank you. In both small and large ways you have touched and changed me. The love that women have is powerful, profound, priestly. It sanctifies and blesses all that we touch. It makes us like Her. And oh, how I want to be.