Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Appreciating Differences

Last week, I had a wonderful time at a big homeschooling event, where I learned much about homeschooling my children. Even more than that, I had several epiphanies about myself and Heavenly Father's plans for me and my children.

Interestingly enough, one of the biggest "A-ha moments" happened to me as my husband was driving us home. I was telling him about how I had a special moment with some of my friends to just talk and soak in what we had learned. One of my friends gave me a compliment, and I had a hard time accepting it. I started telling her how I admired another of our friends, with her poise and elegance. And then I also told her that I wished I were more like HER, because she's so organized and on-task.

As I was sharing this experience with my husband, he chided me for not appreciating the gifts that God has given me. I was a little "put out," at first, but then I started thinking about one of my personal heroes, and the reasons I had always looked up to her.

Dolley Madison
I have read and studied the life of First Lady, Dolley Madison, quite a bit, and through my study of her I have felt a real sense of camaraderie and friendship. She was not as staunch and strong as Abigail Adams, nor as decorous and serious as Martha Washington, but she had valuable gifts to contribute, too.

For instance, Dolley acted in the role of First Lady to TWO presidents! Thomas Jefferson, a widower, asked Mrs. Madison to fulfill the duties of First Lady while her husband, James, served as Secretary of State. And then, when James became President himself, she continued to serve in that capacity.

It was a difficult time in the fledgling United States, and Dolly hosted many state dinners with guests from around the globe. She was well-known for her abilities to put anyone from anywhere at ease with her friendly, welcoming manner. She smoothed many difficult social situations because of her love and kindness to people of every country.

She also saw the need to beautify and decorate the White House. She went to great effort to make the White House a place where anyone could feel comfortable and welcome.

Many people who write about Dolley tend to emphasize her bravery in waiting at the White House for her husband, even though British troops were marching toward Washington. And I have read many times about her delaying her escape so she could save the picture of George Washington before the White House was burned to the ground. Of course I admire her for those exciting acts she performed, but it's her talents in being a hostess and wife that inspire me the very most.

So, back to me, conversing with my husband in our van on the way home. I don't know why I thought about Dolley in that moment, but I was reminded about how many people feel her talents and contributions to our country were merely superficial. But my friend had told me that I have similar talents to my hero, and just as I value and appreciate Dolley's gifts, I should value and appreciate my own, as well. I shed tears, thinking about Dolley, and about me, my friend, and all the many women I love and admire.

As women, we each have strengths and weaknesses. Do we acknowledge and accept our God-given talents and abilities, or do we only see the gifts of the women around us? We should NOT de-value our own contributions to the world and within our circle of influences and homes! We should be able to say "Thank you," when given a compliment. And just because other women are amazing, does not mean that we aren't, too! Whether we are Abigails, Marthas, or Dolleys, we have much to offer our families and the world at large.

Thanks for the reminder, Toni, Russell... and Mrs. Madison.


  1. Great thing to remember. I think it's very important that mothers model this for their daughters-both giving and receiving genuine compliments. My mom was terrible at receiving compliments, and I think she passed this on to me. Sometimes it's hard for me to even accept declarations of love from family members since I feel I'm not worthy of it for x or y reason.

  2. Great post. Looking at others and wishing we 'were there' is just so unhealthy for us. Learning from others is a great tool, but when we feel we should/need to be where another is is weakening to our spirits and oftimes makes us stumble in our own journey.


  3. This is a wonderful post!! It goes along with the lesson we had at Church on our 'talents'..

  4. I love this post! My whole life I have had a difficult time accepting compliments. Often, the first thing that pops into my mind is, "Okay, what does this person want from me?" That's horrible, I know, but that's just how I am.

    I used to sometimes long for others' talents and strengths. I don't anymore. I had an experience that taught me a terrific lesson. I had a friend who was one of those gals that just seems to have it all-- beauty, grace, charisma, energy, organization, artistic talent... the list could go on and on. I loved her like a sister, but I have to admit that I sometimes wished I could be more like her. And then we sold our home, and could not get into our new home for 4 weeks, and this gracious friend let us move in with her for those 4 weeks. It was such an eye opener! I had no idea before of her secret struggles, her secret weaknesses, the seemingly insurmountable problems she faced! These were things that she did not share with her friends, but I couldn't help but become aware of them while living with her. After those 4 weeks with her I felt so blessed to be me, with my own set of talents but also my own set of problems and weaknesses! I'm really glad I experienced that. Now when I feel tempted to think, "Oh, if I could only be more like so and so," I just remember that experience and then I feel so thankful to just be me!

  5. Thank you for sharing this, Rachel! I was nodding my head right along with ya' as I read! :0) It is very hard not to compare ourselves with others, and it's also hard not to compare our lives with others sometimes! :0) I am grateful for your example and everything that I learn from reading your blog!

  6. What a lovely post. I really enjoyed learning about Dolly We do all have gifts given to us from a loving Heavenly Father.
    I have a daughter that Home Schools and I so admire her for being able to do that. She has the sweetest children and I know much of it is because she is such a jewel. She is so kind and compassionte and I sense you are much like her too.
    Just think that you are expanding the minds of your precious children with eternal truths that can not be learn as well in the world we live in. Blessings to you! LeAnn

  7. Hello I am new to your blog and just wanted to leave you a note. I will be reading your blog on a regular basis. I enjoy your view of things and we are very similar in our parenting styles.
    I have also always admired Dolley.

  8. Beautiful post! We women must learn to think of ourselves as amazing and talent in just the ways God made us. He dosen't make mistakes.

    My daughter adores Dolley most of all among the first ladies also. I will share your thoughts with her.

  9. It's true that it is so difficult to accept compliments and to see our gifts as being as good as others' gifts. I loved this post.


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