Portraits of Mormon Women: Erika — Creating Hope
A few weeks ago, we had a Weekly Question that asked women to share how they like to create. We received several responses, and we are excited to start sharing what women have sent. (We want to hear from you, too!)
Today, Erika shares her story about how she played a role in creating hope and fostering a sense of confidence for women at a turning point in their lives. Grab a tissue; you might need it.
I have been married to my best friend for almost 7 years. I have four boys ages 6 to 4 months. My current calling at church is the ward Librarian which is teaching me a lot since my idea of an organized closet is a door that still closes. 🙂
I grew up in a small town in Idaho, where jeans and pony tails were the style of choice. I never considered going in to cosmetology, because I was not the “high maintenance” type. I did however always race home when there was a makeover special on Oprah. I loved how nothing about the inside of the woman changed, just her view of herself. I didn’t even wear makeup or do my hair fancy on my wedding day. Then shortly after we were married my husband saw me wearing mascara, he commented that he liked it. After a series of events, I ended up selling makeup and I realized how much I enjoyed making people feel just a little extra special.
About two years after we were married with just one semester left in my college education I decided I was pursuing the wrong field and switched to cosmetology. I just love to make people look and feel beautiful!
The idea to help women in a local shelter came through listening to inspirational people whom I met while in school. One was a really sweet teacher who talked about how he lived behind a men’s homeless shelter. On his day off he would take a chair out to his front yard and post a sign on his fence offering free haircuts. The other was a very inspirational woman who came to our school. Her name is Sister Bonnie. She is a Catholic nun. She became a nun and then asked her convent to pay for her to go to beauty school. When she got done, she opened a shop in a homeless shelter bathroom in a super dangerous neighborhood. She talked about the change that came over each homeless person as she took the “weariness of the road” from them. With such wonderful examples, how could I not do my part?
I was afraid, though, to do it at first. I had so much feeling invested in it, I just didn’t want them to say no, or tell me I was naive. I called a few shelters and they rejected my idea, then I called an abused woman’s shelter and they were excited. It wasn’t until later that I found out they weren’t abused women. They were women with addictions. They had the choice to continue serving time in jail or go to this addiction recovery program. It was a 1-2 year long program. The women I was able to work with were about to complete the program.
(Please click on the picture above to view Erika’s Video: Day of Beauty)
When the women in the shelter heard about the idea, they were surprised and felt blessed. They made me feel like I was an instrument in Heavenly Fathers hands. [See here for a news story that includes one woman’s poignant feelings about Erika’s service.]
I know that the Lord sees us with the eyes of a Creator — a Creator that put time and love into us. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to love ourselves. Helping others feel beautiful helps them to see themselves the way he does. It also helps me to feel real joy! The kind of joy that only comes from serving others.
Being involved in this project also increased my testimony of the Savior’s love and His atoning sacrifice. I felt these women had incredible convictions about the Savior and his Atonement. I knew that He had forgiven them for their sins. I knew that He loved them even more than they loved Him.
I realized that He must see us more like children, lost or young, not as wicked people. I learned some of the greatest lessons from these women who, through personal struggle and sin had lost everything, except the love of the Savior. But that was the only thing they needed to start fresh. Lasting change came to their lives because of the Savior’s teachings. As I saw them with His love, helping them to see themselves that way was easier. I was grateful to be able to help them for one afternoon to remember the way that he sees them.
The Beauty School has continued to do a makeover for every woman that graduates from the program. I think the beauty school continued the project because charity is addicting. Once you get a taste for it, you just can’t quit! Now, Paul Mitchell schools all across the country are starting teams called “Be nice or Else” teams — focused completely on helping others largely do to the positive outcome that service brings to a Cosmetology school, based on what they saw from our school.
My plans for my life were focused on pursuing cosmetology and having my husband be a stay-at-home dad. I was offered several jobs — all that would pay more than my husband currently makes. I was offered a job in the Caribbean. A guest speaking job flying all over the country to speak about philanthropy. A teaching job at any Paul Mitchell school of my choice. I also had big plans to build a terrific salon.
But I did this project and finished it just weeks before Sister Julie B. Beck’s [General Relief Society President of our church] talk of “Mothers who know.” Pondering that talk was life changing. All of my professional dreams dissipated. They seemed to vanish. I cried, wondering why I had such dreams if they were not to come about, and then realized I had sustained Sister Beck and I better gain a testimony of the things she said. I prayed and read and prayed and read. Then I studied her talk and pondered it. I wondered where she came up with such strong doctrine. I read the foot notes and I was lead to another talk, “To the Mothers in Zion.” These two talks are what I have built the foundation of my motherhood on. After I gained a testimony of motherhood, I have seen nothing else more important to do with my time.
So I am now a full-time mom. I occasionally do classes for enrichment and makeovers for neighbors. But I don’t want to be misunderstood. I fear that someone someday will see me and say-ooh your that makeover girl. I want to be remembered as a Mother, not a makeover girl. I really feel that that is the greatest title.
We invite you to send pictures or links of how you create — it can be something as simple as your favorite recipe, a craft you have made, your favorite wall in your home that adds that special touch. Consider sending pictures of quilts, clothing, artwork. Send your poetry or other writing. Have you made a video? Written a song? Do you play the piano? Send a recording, or a picture of you playing. Consider also ways you spend your time to create moments and memories for your family and friends. Be creative in thinking about how you create, and share your story with others here.
For more Portraits of Mormon Women, see here.