Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sisters. My sisters.

Today is International Women's Day.

I love this day. For many reasons.

One, I love the chance to celebrate womanhood and sisterhood. A chance to celebrate, simply because I am a woman? Sign me up. I always love a reason to party.

But in all seriousness, I am all for celebrating the women in my life and women who have influenced me. I am surrounded by so many incredible women in my life. It is one of the greatest blessings of my life--to know so many incredible, strong, bright, ambitious, kind, beautiful, intelligent women. Women I call my sisters and friends.

Two, celebrations with fresh flowers are always a good idea. Always, always.

Three, Women's Day reminds me of Ukraine. It reminds me of the first International Women's Day I ever truly celebrated. I remember walking the streets of Kharkov, wishing the women around us a Happy Women's Day, and receiving well-wishes from those we passed. I remember getting bright yellow flowers from people on the street, and I remember this general air of freshness and happiness--a spot of spring amidst the grey apartment buildings around us.

Women's Day reminds me of the strength of the women of Ukraine.

They are resilient.
They are beautiful.
They are blunt.
They are dignified.
They are phenomenal.

Phenomenal women.

I met so many women on the streets of Ukraine. And they are all my sisters. My beautiful, strong, incredible sisters. I still am humbled that I was able to live with them for a period of my life. They taught me so much. They let me into their lives. And in return, they touched my own life in ways that I cannot even begin to repay.

Because when a woman lets you into her life, she will give you her heart.

Can I tell you a story? It is a story I had forgotten about until recently. It is a story from Ukraine. A mission story. (I know, I know. I talk about my mission all of the time. I can't help it. Truly, I can't. You can take a girl out of the mission, but you can't take the mission out of the girl. Story of my life.)

On a mission, you meet people from all walks of life. One night my companion and I were going to a woman's home to share a message about faith and to invite her to come to church with us that Sunday. We had met with this woman before. We knew her story. And she had let us into her life . . . and she had told us everything--her past, her hopes, her dreams, her fears. She trusted us; she loved us because we honestly cared for her. And even though she had had a very colorful past, she loved us because we had hope for her. We saw her potential. And she could feel that.

Anyway, one night when we were at Vika's, and she had invited a friend to come listen to us. Her friend was also far from perfect (to put it nicely), but I was struck that Vika had invited her friend to listen to us. I'm going to quote straight from my journal to tell the rest of the story, because I feel it tells it better than I could retell it:

"On Tuesday we met with Vika again. Her friend Tatyana was there. And we were able to have a nice discussion about Alma 32 and faith. But what struck me most about this meeting was the symbolism. Vika and Tatyana are both pretty greshni (sinful). Tatyana is living with someone who isn't her husband, and Vika has done that too, at points in her life.

"And this meeting reminded me of how the Savior had dinner at publicans' and sinners' homes. And how adulteresses would lay down and cry at His feet, wiping His feet with their long, sleek hair. How He was at ease with the saint and the sinner--because He loved them. We're all greshni (sinful) before God--whether adulteresses or apostles. But we are all invited to come unto Him. He turns none away.

"I was grateful for a deeper insight into His life tonight--me, sitting on a broken couch in inner-city Kharkov, Ukraine, dining with adulteresses."

Why do I tell this story on Women's Day? I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. Because it reminds me of Ukraine? Perhaps. It does remind me of the many women that I met there and that I continue to meet. The women who are striving. The women who are hurting. The women who fall and the women who succeed. All of us.

But I also feel like there is a deeper connection here, something that I am still trying to put my finger on.

I think it has something to do with sisters.

And something to do with love.

For these women--all of the women I met in Ukraine--all of the women I associate with--they are my sisters. There is a bond in womanhood. A strength in sisterhood.

And my sisters are beautiful. Glorious. Phenomenal. Imperfect. But extraordinary.

And still we rise.

So, my dear sisters. Happy Women's Day. С днём женщин! I would buy you all flowers if I could. But I do wish you success, happiness, health, love, and hope for the future. 

С праздником, дорогие сёстры!

Happy Women's Day, my dear, dear sisters. 

I love you. 

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