I got home Saturday from the AMI conference and hit the ground running with the girls dance performance to attend and a list of things to do. I still am working my way through that list. But I had such an incredible experience in Salt Lake at the AMI conference and there are several things I felt or learned there that I want to share with everyone. It just may take me a while to get through it all or to it all.
I wasn't sure what to expect going to Salt Lake or how I would feel during this conference interacting with a bunch of women I didn't know. Getting to know new people has been a bit more intimidating since Camille died. It always means questions I have to answer that are not as easy to answer as they used to be (like how many kids do you have and what are their ages.)
But at the end of the conference I can say my favorite part was getting to know the amazing Young Mothers of the Year from the various states. I made so many wonderful new friends that I am sure I will keep in touch with. The Young Mothers I met were inspiring, strong, funny, beautiful women with whom I share so many of the same priorities and values.
I would have been so happy to support any one of them being selected as the National Young Mother. I was so happy with the board's decision to choose Shawni. Her speech was so good with the perfect mix of emotion and substance. And she had an incredible analogy about a hot air balloon ride she took and how the fire of that ride raised her higher. That "fire" is something we all feel and her perspective on it was inspiring.
We each had to give a 3 minute speech on the topic: Making a Difference, Strengthen Myself, Elevate My Family. Mine ... well I cried more and earlier in the speech than I wanted to. But I got through it and gave most of it almost word for word what I had written. It is the first time I have ever tried to give a memorized speech. I felt a little flustered by the time restraint and trying to not cry but I think people felt my message.
Since you could not all be there, here is my speech in you are interested:
Making a Difference- Strengthen Myself – Elevate my Family
Just over three years ago, in a quiet moment of clarity, I received what I believe was divine instruction. I had been struggling to redefine myself in this young mother stage of life. In the past I had been a student, a journalist, an attorney… Now I was a full time mother and I loved it, but still I felt something was missing. What could I do or be now that would help me grow personally and not detract from my mothering?
My answer came with such clarity that I could not help but act on it. I was going to be a writer. And I was going to practice my writing by blogging. That day I created a blog entitled “A Daily Scoop.”
What I did not know then was what a lifeline this blog would turn out to be for me and the difference it would make in the lives of others. You see I did not know that just 6 weeks later I would be writing about my journey through grief after the tragic drowning and death of my youngest daughter Camille.
From the day of Camille’s accident, I wrote begging for prayers on her behalf. I updated everyone on how she was fairing in the hospital. I wrote of her passing from this life to the next. And then … I literally wrote my heart out.
Everyday for over a year I let the pain I was feeling flow through my fingertips and into cyberspace as I sought some silver lining in the storm of my sorrow. My writing always put my loss in perspective and helped me see all the good in my life. It allowed me to feel a bit of sunshine through the darkness. It strengthened me every day.
And miraculously, it helped others too. I am amazed at the emails I get from readers telling me the difference my simple writings have made in their life. Many have found their own struggles mirrored in my writings. Others have been able to learn some of the lessons that grief taught me without having to experience it themselves.
I have also seen how recording our story has elevated my family. Last year I compiled most of my blog entries into a book. I purchased copies for each of my children in hopes that one day this book would help them better understand and remember this time of our lives and what it was like losing their sister.
After reading some of the book one day, my oldest daughter came to me with tears in her eyes and told me how reading it was like reading her life. One day I hope she and her siblings will see how God held our family in His hands throughout our grieving.
Every person and every family has a story. By recording our stories and sharing them with others we can build bridges of understanding and friendship. We can make a difference in the world. We can more easily recognize the hand of the Lord in our life. Which will strengthen us personally and elevate our families in faith.