In one of those “It’s a Small World” connections, I’ve known of Emily for well over a decade. Through a close relative I heard about the wonderful things she was doing. I knew about her growing family, and I knew that she was a master gardener. I knew that she was the kind of woman who delighted in her role as a woman, wife, and mother. Almost a year ago the geographic lines of our congregation were redrawn and to my delight, the Saddler family was now attending church at the same time as my family. Since that time, I’ve learned that everything that I had heard about Emily was an understatement. She truly is an incredible woman with a deep sense of her purpose here on this earth and family as her priority.
I sat down with Emily in her welcoming home and asked her a few questions about her Big Ocean experience. She has been part of the organization almost since the beginning, first attending Cottage meetings at a friend’s home and then eventually getting to know the leaders of Big Ocean. Along the way she began offering her home as a monthly meeting place.
Kristen: What impact does Big Ocean have on your family?
Emily: I think it has a significant impact. When the women came back from New York (United Nations CSW) and shared some of the stories and the difficult things that Sweden is going through–the whole feminist anti-patriarchal movement that’s happening right now. It helps to round out my perspective on how I teach my children and how I treat my husband. And my own gratitude for what I have. My own rights that I have right now to homeschool my kids and to teach them. I feel really blessed. I feel like it’s important to be aware of things that are going on in the world, and not to be in a place of fear because of them but to be a watchman. To be awake and aware. Be able to pick out things that might allude to a feminist anti- patriarchal twist. I feel like I can discern better.
K: What are new skills that you’ve learned during your time in Big Ocean?
E: Talking to people a certain way, not saying ’this is my belief and I’m right’ but actually trying to understand where other people are coming from. Find connections and similarity. That has been a change for me.
E: (laughter) Oh yeah, I’m opinionated, strong willed and stubborn, set in my ways. Everyone has value and their belief system is important to them. And although I may not agree, we can find some similarities. Common ground.
K: I think that’s great that you were able to recognize that in yourself.
E: Well I’m certainly not there yet and I’m certainly still opinionated but it’s changed the way that I respond to people.
K: That’s a powerful skill, not just in your interactions with those outside your home but even more importantly, in your own home.
E: And sometimes that’s the hard part!
K: So true. What traditions does your family have?
E: Gosh, summer is hard. Everything goes out the window. We try to do morning devotional every day. That’s prayer, song, conference talk or read from a book that draws us closer to Christ. Family scripture study, family prayer. We always do family prayer.
K: Do you have an annual vacation?
E: We go to the lake every year, usually the last week of summer right before school starts. We’re not going this year because baby due date is right then.
Emily went on to say it’s not just playtime. The Saddlers work hard too.
E: In the summertime we always choose a week where we can. Tomatoes. Jam. Applesauce. Kids are always involved and helping. The kids help make meals. Sometimes the kids will go to work with dad, just one at a time.
She laughed, we need to have more traditions I guess. It’s just that life gets so busy.
K: You probably do a lot more than you think.
E: True, we do a lot of things together. We watch a lot of movies at home with the kids.
The tone of our conversation switched with the next question.
K: What do you want your children to remember about their time in your home?
E: I want them to remember that it was a physically, emotionally and spiritually safe place. I mean, I don’t always feel that way, as a mom I get frustrated, especially when the kids aren’t listening. All in all, I want them to feel like they remembered feeling loved. (And now with her voice thick with emotion) How to recognize truth. I think that’s our goal, to teach them who they are, how to recognize truth.
K: I love that.
E: We’re not perfect! That’s my goal; if we’re reaching that I’d be surprised.
K: But if that’s your goal, you’re doing better than you think you are. It’s hard to judge the results of the work that we do. We live in a society that judges people based on results, not effort. We celebrate the woman that does the 50-mile bike ride, but we forget that she had to do a lot of one- and two- and five-mile bike rides to get there.
E: It’s those everyday, seem-to-be-mundane things that have a big impact. It’s amazing how the Lord blesses you with different insight when you do what He asks you to do. Homeschooling. Being with my family all day. Having a large family. That’s a different perspective for me. I did not want to have six kids. After four I was done! Now here we are seven, well almost seven kids. I can honestly say that we have been blessed because we had the faith to have our children. To follow through on those promptings.
My aunt, the connection that tied me to Emily said this about her, “She is one of those mothers that is fearless about doing what needs to be done.” Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do here in our feminine experience? We’re attempting to be fearless about the paths we’re taking. Every path is different. Certainly, none of us have achieved perfection. There are always days when our best is pretty pathetic, but as long as we take the long view, then we will have the courage to keep going, to keep trying, and to keep doing what we feel inspired to do.
Written by Kristen Miles