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A jar of jam from the grocery shelf is just that. A container of fruit preserves. But a jar of homemade jam! You can actually taste the love and effort put in to it. I have always wanted/feared to learn how to can fruit. I knew I would never really be a legitimate wife and mother until I excelled in preserving all manner of substances. It's a right of passage into womanhood.

I'm sort of kidding here, but honestly I'll admit to an underlying fear of inadequacy due to my lack of proficiency in this area. Homemaking doesn't come naturally to me. I cheat when I make chicken pot pie, I'll never scrapbook, and I haven't busted out the ironing board in months.
I am trying and I am learning.

My best friend Lindsey visited this past weekend and had a wickedly good time laughing at my custom throw pillows, icing lilies, and painted birdies. "WHO ARE YOU?" she scream/laughed all the way through my house. I know I have changed, but I will be the first to admit how much I love being a wife and a mother. I didn't plan on marrying young or sewing throw pillows but you learn to enjoy life as it comes. In my first year of marriage I learned that I really like to cook. Who would have thought? (Not big brother Andy who used to prematurely mourn for my spinsterhood due to lack of interest in the culinary world.) In my second year of marriage Jason bought me a sewing machine for my birthday and I found I really enjoyed that as well. No, I don't actually measure very often, but it usually works out in the end. On and on the story goes. Little skills and hobbies that I used to mock have become part of my quiet little life.

Recently Jase and I found a quiz that we took when we were engaged. We took it again and I was uncomfortable at the drastic difference in answers. For example the quiz asked 1. If you could describe Ashley in one word what would it be? Old answer: Adventurous. New answer: Domestic. 2. If Ashley could have a shopping spree in one store what would she pick? Old answer: REI. New Answer: Tai Pan Trading decor store. 3. If Ashley was stuck on a island what one item would she take? Old answer: Her Chacos. New answer: Computer. We had a good laugh, but I felt uneasy. The Ghost of Ashley past has haunted me ever since. Who was I then and who am I now? And where are my Chacos?!

My little brother once asked me not to lose myself in marriage. I'm not sure how to do that. I've always considered it sacrifice for a greater good.

When you get married you give up your independence. This is a positive thing. Two individuals naturally merge their separate lives into one. You stop thinking in terms of "I" and consider everything in terms of "we" and "us".

When you become a parent you go beyond giving up independence. You actually forfeit your identity. You don't have the privilege of doing anything on your own timetable. Your wants and needs are bumped into last place. Even the nurturing of a marriage is secondary to the physical and emotional nurturing of your children.

This is what I have learned. All of these changes are good things. It is actually how it is supposed to be. In Matthew 10: 39 we learn that "he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it". I believe this applies to what we devote our lives to while in this world. The Proclamation to the World states "Husbands and wife have solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children...Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to serve and love one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law abiding citizens where ever they live. Husbands and wives--mothers an fathers--will be accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations."

It isn't feasible to follow that command and live selfishly. Now I am Jason's wife and Mason's mother. While going through this mini identity crisis I found that yes, I have changed. But infinitely for the better. And perhaps it is not so much change as discovery. In matrimony and motherhood I have seen glimpses of who I really am.
I do not claim that a perfectly kept house and homemade food will pave the way into heaven. Perhaps, though, it is in those acts that women can serve and be refined. In small acts of self discipline and perseverance, we gain attributes that make us more successful in the home. Success in the home can become success in the family. Happiness and unity will be undeniable blessings.

I really have come a long way. I used to spout, "When I'm married, if my husband is hungry, he should find something to eat". Nowadays I get so much satisfaction from packing his lunch and preparing hot meals. It could have been a less awkward learning process if I hadn't been so bull headed when I was younger, but back then I had no idea how much joy there was in womanhood.

This is my mother. She is the one in the apron. I believe this state of the art kitchen photo was taken at Dixie State College.

Mom and I are opposites. My mom exemplifies everything that a woman should be. She cooks up three hot meals a day, raised 9 successful children, is a supportive wife, never speaks badly of anyone, is cheerful, funny, and lets me call her five times a day. I wish I could be half as hardworking, long suffering, optimistic and thoughtful as she is. As Abraham Lincoln put it, "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

My mom is my hero, example, and friend. By following in her footsteps I find myself closer and closer to personifying the mother I want to become. In my recent struggle with my new identity she's been there to calmly listen to my ranting and let's me ramble on without correction. I knew that she had the answer to my problems, but would never throw it in my face. That's just not her style.

(Finally, back to the point)

I bought a couple flats of strawberries. I knew with my skills I could either dry them or freeze them. When I found out my mom's out of town trip was postponed, I asked her to teach me how to make her freezer jam.

We had a delightful morning cutting up strawberries, measuring sugar, and solving the world's problems. She doesn't seem to care that I fall short of where I should be. She knows I am trying. She doesn't care that I seem to have changed. I am still her girl.

I am overwhelmed by the happiness I felt this morning. With my sticky little boy "helping", my husband assisting, and my mom encouraging, we made miracle jam. I know it won't taste as good as my mother's. Nothing ever does. But it was the perfect recipe to cure my identity crisis. I know I am different. I am actually better, and I will just keep trying.

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weaknesses. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." Ether 12:27
guest post by Ashley Starr 

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