Earning my stripes

A couple of days ago I was on the phone with my baby sister. She has a baby not much younger than mine...her first. He was sick. It was his first time and her first time. I was trying to be encouraging as she tried to hold it together. I remember saying to her "you are earning your stripes".

I never realized how profound that statement is in my life.

And not only in my life, but in the lives of every single woman around me.

In the military, the higher your rank, the more stripes you have. Since that conversation, I have carried that thought in my mind. My stripes. How many I have, how many more I will have to earn. When will I reach my highest rank?

A very sweet friend right now is figuring out how she is going to take care of her sick little boy. Her entire life changed in one diagnosis. A big stripe for her.

My sister who stayed up crying with her precious baby who was sick for his very first time. She earned her very first mommy stripe.

Friends who are grieving or are dealing with things that are kept silent among women. Stripes for them. Women who are battling depression demons, whose lives have been turned upside down for their husbands, women who are supporting their husbands dreams, women who are carrying the weight of their family on their very capable shoulders, women who are supporting themselves, women who are supporting their families, women who would rather be home than earning a paycheck, women who wait patiently for their husbands to figure things out, women who cry because they feel like they can't maintain that balance for one second longer. SO many stripes.

I believe Mommy stripes are the hardest. You take a piece of your heart and set it out in the cold and lonely world and expect it to thrive. I have thought about my own stripes. When my daughter was bullied for the first time and I kept my composure enough to not hunt down the offender and shake them until I felt better. Or how about the first time my daughter was the bully and I made it through without shaking her until I felt better. The first time my daughter threw up in her bed at 3am. Why is it always 3am when you are in your deepest sleep that they throw up? And not only do they throw up, it somehow extends to walls, curtains and the deepest recesses under the bed. How many times have I held a feverish child for hours on end because they just can't get comfortable. I can't even count that high. The first time you watch one of your children fail and you want to save them, but you know that falling down is part of what makes us get back up. Having to stand by and watch with helpless hands. Stripes that I hope to never earn. A mental or physical illness. I can't imagine burying a child. The biggest stripe of them all.

I believe second to that is wife stripes. The first fight. The first time you go to bed and cry yourself to sleep. Watching a spouse hurt and struggle when you want to swoop in to make it all better. The first time they lose a job. The first time they struggle in career choices. The late-night term papers when you go to bed alone smelling their pillow and wearing their sweatshirt. Each time they go out of town and you jump at every noise and creak. Stripes. What about those wives who have to deal with a diagnosis of cancer or some other illness? BIG stripes.

Then there are the daughter and sister stripes. Having a parent fall ill. Missing that sense of security of having your mom and dad in the next room when you are living on your own. The feelings of helplessness as they age. Having a sister or brother struggle. Their lives...their DNA...their very essence being the closest to your own in this world. It stabs you when they hurt. Living so far away that the thought of not being able to hug them or share in the everydayness of life. More stripes.

Tonight I have done a lot of soul-searching. A lot of crying. A lot of trying to figure it all out. Trying to make sense of things that seem so beyond my realm of reality. I keep thinking about a quote from Brigham Young

"Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation".

Every trial and experience huh?

I have those in droves.

I keep wondering when my tests will be done. When will I have earned all of my stripes? It scares me. Some days I don't want to go any further because I don't want to know what trials wait around the corner. I don't want any more stripes.

But I know I need to earn them.

My favorite Apostle Deiter F. Uchtdorf said during our last conference

"The Lord has given us a reassuring message of hope: “Fear not, little flock.” God will wait with “open arms to receive” those who give away their sins and continue in faith, hope, and charity.

And to all who suffer—to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely—I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in.

Never surrender.

Never allow despair to overcome your spirit."

As I thought about this, and I continually think about this concept, I have come to one conclusion. One day I will stand before my Heavenly Father and I want to be able to tell him that I earned my stripes and I did it with grace, honor, faith, hope and integrity. I want to tell him that it wasn't easy; that there were times I wanted to quit and step on those stripes and walk away but that I didn't. I want to tell him I endured to the end and I found joy in the journey. I want him to hold me and tell me that I did it.

Because, you know what? Those stripes, as hard as it is to earn them...totally worth it.


chellie said...

Thanks for that. Loved it!

Laurie said...

It truly is an amazing gift we have been given has wifes, sisters, mothers, daughters of a LOVING Heavenly Father.

Even though life sometimes makes us ALL feel like giving up. We have learned that through faith HE will push us through it.

I think when the time has come we will look back and say, every single stripe was worth it! Just doesn't feel like it during some of the trials.

It is through his grace we find Joy in the Journey.

Anonymous said...

great post!! And I miss you, so glad you are blogging so I can "talk" to you!!

daiseymae said...

It seems as though there are many who struggle who also go unnoticed. This post will help all who read it. Thank you for sharing your insight with the rest of us who are right now earning those "big stripes".

Schmid Family said...

Way to go Stepahnie, making me cry first thing in the morning. Great post. Definetely brings things into prospective. Thanks for the post I needed to read that and know that I am not the only one who sometimes feels those things.

Char said...

I read this when I was up at 3 am (earning stripes under my eyes) and couldn't form a coherent comment. I thought it'd be better this morning, but it's not. LOL! Anyway...thanks.

Heidi said...

Well said. It is good to know that we are not alone in our times of struggle.

Jenn said...

I think one day after all is said and done I will look like a zebra. well put I agree 100% and I love how you are looking at life right now. I think this is a healthy perspective.

Lana said...

Beautifully written! I too thank you for making me cry this morning already; and also for giving me strength :)

Mattsmom said...

Beautiful and profound! THANKS!

The Rookie said...

Loved this. Thanks for the uplift, the reminder, and sometimes it really is comforting to know we ALL go through trials that are challenging and difficult to us. More reason to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, right?

Andrea said...

I think this is why women need friends. We need different kinds of friends who have been through it, and really know how we feel.

It sounds like you are working things out right now, and that you are supported by women with varying stripes, both young and old.

Candace said...

Ok, I'm crying! But thank you for posting your inner thoughts. It is comforting to know we are not alone in our trials! We are all just on this path of life earning our stripes together!

ames said...

Thank You for this. I have been struggling with some of my stripes and a woe is me attitude right now. This gave me a new perspective and a lot of comfort. Thank you for sharing your gift of words.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for leting me use this in my lesson today. I had everyone crying. Thanks again for being my friend love you... Janet the car2 grandma.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for leting me use this in my lesson today. I had everyone crying. Thanks again for being my friend love you... Janet the car2 grandma.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You definately have had your share of stripes. I think you are becoming a remarkable person because of all of them though. I am so sorry you have to go through your latest trial. I hope and pray all works out for the best. Love ya!

Picture Perfect said...

So reading your blog today chalks it up to 8 straight days of tears for me! I was trying to hold it together today but to no avail.