I just tried to post this as a comment in the last post, but it won’t let me because it’s so dang long.  So for what it’s worth, here you go.
Thank you for all the insightful comments…I’m finally back
to give my own two-cents, although I’m not sure blogger takes comments this
{it doesn’t…}
This blog started out being a record of our family life, but
has turned out to be much more than I had ever anticipated.   I hope
that part of what it has grown into is a place for people to find a normal
family that is trying to be the best that they can be using any positive
resources they can, but most especially using their relationship with God…who
knows them individually and knows how to help them through the inevitable
struggles that come their way.   I want
to show that good relationships and family systems often don’t just happen,
they need to be worked on, and that having faith and a relationship with God
can sure help on that.  I didn’t ever
intend for this spot on the Internet to become a place to discuss my specific
religion, but because that religion is so tightly interwoven into everything I
do I guess that comes with the territory.
My religion has been a cornerstone of how Dave and I raise
our kids, and because we are so grateful for that, I’m so happy that I can
share it.  I’m so thankful that through
reading this blog a few families have taken it on so whole-heartedly that they
have been baptized.  I am so happy to hear
from them and the joy and happiness that has come into their lives because of that
decision.  It was the cornerstone of my
family growing up, and as crazy as some of us are, it helped guide and direct
us all in a way that I can never be quite thankful enough for.  The whole church is built around families and
how to make them stronger.  I know I
weave this into many posts, and have said it over and over but I can’t say it
enough: I am so grateful for my religion! 
Now, that is certainly not to say that it is perfect.  Nor are the people who take part in it
perfect.  Oh boy, everyone sure makes
mistakes.  But that’s what’s so beautiful
about the core of it all:  We have a
Heavenly Father who loves us.  And He has
given us His Son to take care of all the things we do to “mess up” through
grace and pure love if we will only just accept that gift with our hearts.  He atoned for our sins and gave us all the
opportunity to repent of our mistakes and to be able to return to live with Him
some day.  My religion teaches that God
wants us to have JOY.  It teaches that we
can find that joy by serving and loving others and by creating strong families.
That is the core.   And I think it’s so important to remember
that core when you try to dissect all the different parts, because everything
comes back to that.
Ok, so on to Jill’s point that many people perceive
undercurrents of racial and gender inequality in the LDS faith.  I think you are exactly right on that.  Some readers have already commented on this
much better than I could, but for what it’s worth I’d like to say that we are
taught in my religion that women are strong. 
We have the power to do whatever we want.  We can truly change the world.  We are also taught that women in general are
wonderful nurturers.  Aren’t those things
combined the most amazing gift?  Isn’t it
wonderful that we truly have the power to change the world by striving to love
others as Christ would love…not only children who we can teach to make a difference in the world, but those we interact with on a daily basis… adults and friends and peers and complete strangers alike.  Women can be tremendous nurturers of EACH OTHER and we have the power to bring so much happiness through doing just that.  Pe
rsonally think that is one of the most glorious gifts we can be given.  Does that mean women are weak or somehow
inferior to men?  Of course not!  Although I do believe men and women are
certainly equal, we are not the SAME.  I
just don’t know why so many people in the world try to make us that way.  Why not celebrate  what makes us different and take pride in
it?  Are all women the same?  Of course not.  Some are more nurturing than others.  Some have brains that are wired for being
amazing CEO’s or brain surgeons or teachers or astronauts.  Some find their talents in sewing or
cooking or making a home a beautiful place. 
We are all different.  Vastly
different.  And how wonderful if we can
learn to celebrate those differences rather than judging or nit-picking what
others do around us.  We need to be our
own best selves whatever our hearts lead us to be.
As far as the racial inequality within the LDS church, I
think those misperceptions are bound to come when living in an area that lacks
a lot of diversity like many readers have eloquently already commented.  If you take a look at the larger demographics
of the LDS church you’ll see that there are more LDS members of the church outside the United States than inside, and you may have a completely
different view of the LDS religion if you were to live among church members in
Africa or Europe or our little expat branch in Shanghai….or even just in Iowa or Tennessee where there isn’t such a high concentration of Mormon church members.
The truth is that the LDS religion is not a perfect
religion.  Is any religion perfect?  I think not. 
There are wonderful leaders working hard and praying their guts out for
guidance to make it better, but we are all human.  Sometimes I think that people of my faith are
held up to a pretty steep measuring tape. 
I don’t know why.  It’s like
people get mad when they see a little crack in our supposedly
supposed-to-be-perfect demeanor.
But of course no one on the planet is perfect or even close to it.  Perfect people don’t need a Savior. 

As far as the reference to religion dividing people instead
of unifying them, and the point that you can’t really have empathy for people
if you don’t really know them, that could be a whole post in and of
itself.  Wouldn’t the world be such a
better place if we could all walk around in someone else’s shoes for a little
while?  If we all just had a little more
empathy for what others are going through? 
That’s a pretty tough thing to do…we all get so caught up in our own
little bubbles and our own narrow versions of reality, but I love that our
religion teaches getting an education and reaching out to others to try to figure those things out.  Going on missions to take us out of our own
narrow views and trying to serve others.  Serving
unconditionally in any capacity we can. 
But most importantly it teaches that we should have Christ-like love for
every single other person on this whole entire planet.  

Not just the ones who are nice to us.  

Not just the ones who think the same way we

It teaches that really, when it
comes down to it, we are all children of God, no matter race or gender or
financial status, no matter how we choose to spend our time or how we choose to
live the lives we’ve been given.  We are
all part of His human race.  Our
responsibility is not to judge how others are living their part, it is to
examine our own lives to see how we can do better.  How we can love better.  How we can forgive, and how we can use the
power of the Atonement in our own individual lives.  And His hand is always stretched out to help us do just that if we will only ask (my fav. scripture in Isaiah).  I believe that THAT is the purpose of life,
and what truly brings the JOY that God wants us to have.  We just need to strive to love each other as
He does.

I am trying to do just that.  Of course I fail and make mistakes every single day, but I love the quote I have shared before from an “unknown” author:  “Oh God of new beginnings and second chances, here I am again.”  Each day is a new chance.  And boy howdy do I ever need all the chances I can get!

**post edit note, I took out a few lines of this post and took off the comments (although I do appreciate them!) because it took away from the focus I want to keep here.  

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  1. Shawni,
    Thank you for all the time and effort that you put into this blog to uplift others. I appreciate your example and that you share your family and testimony so freely. I have been following for a few years and you have definitely motivated me to be more deliberate in my choices as a wife, mother, and friend. You are making a difference and I am grateful!

  2. Shawni, you represent Mormonism and motherhood so well. Of course you're not perfect but you are wonderful and sincere.
    Thank you for being one of those women I can look up to in our religion.

  3. oh shas, i love you so much. reading this made me so full up of adoration and gratitude for your example in my life. you're amazing! can't wait to see you in a couple weeks!!

  4. Thank you for posting this! I'm so grateful for the gospel and the knowledge, peace, and happiness it brings into my life; knowing that I am not perfect, but I have a Savior who loves me and died for me, who knows I will make mistakes, but because of His Atonement there's still hope for me. I can try each day to be better, and most importantly to learn to love and serve others better.

  5. I am always amazed at your kindness in response to meanness. Thank you for sharing your life and uplifting thoughts. You are an amazing example of charity and kindness!

  6. That was well written and I think eloquently shares your experiences within the Church. Unfortunately it is not the same for all members of the Church and that is shameful. As a childless single women I am reminded at every meeting that I am not what my Heavenly Father has deemed to be a worthwhile person and it's painful.

    1. Susan-
      I don't know you or your story, but I can tell you that your value and worth of a person can never be diminished, no matter their family status. You are of upmost importance to your Heavenly Father. I can't tell you why these hards things happen. But I know that they have the purpose of making us stronger forces for good.
      All the best,

  7. What a wonderful and inspiring message. I don't think I could thank you enough for sharing your thoughts and experiences over this cyberspace. It's incredible what can happen and who can be touched when we use the internet for good. I hope each reader realizes this type of goodness within themselves, for each of us imperfect human beings can do amazing things when we focus on building up one another 🙂

  8. You responded to so many points so so eloquently and I am so impressed by everything you were able to put in so perfectly. Thank you for being such a great example of someone who is trying so hard and doing your best. Thank you for uplifting so many and for "letting us into your world" and family. I think it would be very difficult to have your family blog become so widely read that you can't just post whatever comes to mind, but you have to think through things so completely because something may be taken wrong.

  9. Shawni, this was an excellent post. I think we all understand how and why you blog. (Yes, I'm back – I'll try not to be so negative).

    I do like to read about your family – sometimes I agree with you and sometimes I don't. Which is fine. I would think you'd be a little weirded out when some of your commenters are so fan-like.

    I've been to that "other site" too – haven't commented there but have read what they say about you and your blog. That's why I have a hard time believing you don't look in from time to time. They will comment on something and your blog addresses what they've said in some subtle way.

    1. Could be. But if it's "simply not worth her time"- then why address any issues anyone reads on there? Just write your blog and ignore them.

    2. I understand what you mean. It would be so hard for me to ignore it! One reason I keep coming back to 71toes is because of how eloquent and kindly she addresses the "not nice" comments. So many people would get mad and say mean things back but she never has. (That I'm aware of.) That says so much to me about her character. I took the comment about "not worth my time" to mean going to read negative stuff wasn't worth her time. In my opinion that's different than addressing an issue if someone told her about it. I've only seen that stuff one time, by accident. I was looking for a specific blog post here and google pulled that site up. I read some of it, felt angry for their family and left. I haven't been back and I've never met any of the Eyre family. It made me mad though—and I wouldn't have been able to defend any of it with the grace Shawni has.

    3. That's interesting if I address things here that they address there because after I scrolled through a couple times when I first arrived in China and had my heart sink that people would think or say those things, I decided it just wasn't worth my time to go back. No matter what you do in life, people are going to think what they will about you, and all that really matters is that you're doing your best.

    4. I personally believe that the "it's not worth my time"- attitude is very healthy. And no matter if or how she reacted to comments, I agree with you that this is a good post. It's very interesting to read about the motives and learn more about Shawni.

    5. I wouldn't take anything you read there to heart. It is a site meant for snark so you know they are looking for bad things to say.

    6. It's interesting to me that your Dad and Charity really seem to enjoy actively engaging people on "that other site." I just checked it out (you know you're giving them major traffic by talking about them) and see that your dad even seems to be "selling" (for a lack of a better word) his videos and books. I think their engagement with the folks over there really has encouraged the "judging" kind of dialogue. If they want to do that I guess that's their own business but I would ask them not to talk about you and your family there. The one thing that REALLY offended me on that site is the discussion of your teenagers' social media activities. If Charity and your dad are bothered by that too they should stop adding fuel to the fire.

      Way back on Friday Q&A I asked about what happens when you disagreed with your parents. You said that doesn't really happen because you honor then and agree with their values. And your mom responded in the comments "you're such a good girl." which really blew me away! I guess I'm back to my earlier comment about this specific kind of parenting and how it affects adulthood. Recently I've been myself thinking about and working through my own family of origin stuff, as I raise my own kids, so I guess I think about it when I ready the Eyrealm blogs as well.

    7. Yes, I noticed that site had some comments about some offensive twitter posts from several of the kids. Funny that they were deleted from the twitter feeds immediately. If Shawni is not checking that site out, she has someone who keeps her informed because it definitely causes her to act.

  10. Hi Shawni,

    I’ve read your blogs for years but have never commented it. Just admired from afar all that you had to offer.

    I’m not Mormon and furthermore, more of a ‘spiritual’ person vs. organized religion. I find higher power in a lot of places, namely outdoors and in the deep throes of comforting relationships. I wonder about it all. I don’t have many of the answers I’d like but I think it’s a personal journey for everyone to take.

    With that said, I have loved your blog for years. At first glance, it doesn’t really seem like there’s a reason why it would be enticing to me. I’m somewhat of a free spirit, just got married at 30, no kids yet, not Mormon.. and yet, I love catching up on your family and all their little milestones. Why is that?

    As a reader of many blogs, I realized why, given these differences, I have had so much interest in your blog. Because it has nothing to do with religion to me (though I wholly respect your religion and how it intertwines into every moment of your day) and everything to do with being a better person, treating others with kindness, learning about the world around you and loving the people you share it with. I love that. I love that you have your kids do reports on places you go visit. There is nothing vapid about your blog in any capacity and I love the spirit behind it. Also, Claire’s huge smile is so dang adorable!

    I knew of that site a few years ago when they started to attack another Blogger I really like. Since then, I have perused it from time to time. Admittedly, I do think some of the forums are a little beneficial towards those who have misrepresented themselves online for profit. However, I wouldn’t ever comment on it or get involved in that discourse. BUT, I have wanted to merely go defend you for some time. I don’t understand how anyone could throw you under the bus when you clearly show an earnest care for the world and raise your children hoping to make them better people. I don’t get it. But I think, like you said, they are more so debating LDS as a whole than you personally.

    Blogging is essentially quite shallow in many regards. And in some ways, that’s fine. A lot of people use blogs for shallow topics and a little fun, stress relief (myself included) and I definitely enjoy certain blogs that post just about shoes or something like that. But I have loved the weight of yours and have found a lot of insightful messages from it- whether or not I agreed with every ideology you have for your life.

    Sorry for the long comment, as I said, been reading for years but never commented- just felt inclined to step in now and say thanks and how you came across to someone who doesn’t fit the assumed mold of your audience.

    (And I’m also pulling that the kids get that dog at some point 🙂 My favorite part of growing up)

  11. You are a beautiful person and continue to inspire me to be the best me possible. Thank you for all the good you do for so many! This blog always adds joy and inspiration to my life, and I'm so grateful I found it. Love from North Carolina!

  12. Shawni, your blog is my absolute favorite. I LOVE your perspective on life, parenting, and religion–but I think that post where you talked about the imperfections in your life might be my favorite yet! Thanks for keeping it real while still focusing on the good parts. I have gleaned so much inspiration and wisdom from your posts, and I'm hoping that someday I get the chance to meet you in real life!!

  13. I too rarely comment but so love to read your blog. I think it was about 4 years ago when a friend posted a link to here because she loved your distraction technique with toddlers and I've been reading ever since! I can count on one hand the number of blogs I read from people I don't know and yours is one of them! I especially loved reading about your preparations for and your time in China as my husband both love to travel and we've had the dream of living abroad with our kids someday. We hope to make that dream a reality, too. Thanks so much for your all of insights and for your kindness and grace in these responses. I feel odd at times caring so much about your family but I do and wish you all the best.

  14. Beautifully said Shawni! I have never understood people who comment negatively about someones blog. How they have the time and energy for negativity is beyond me. Especially when it is clearly a journal and record of and for that persons family. Just don't read it! That's what I would like to tell them. Thanks for posting the positive. Everyone knows no ones lives or families are perfect, but it's nice to read a blog that is encouraging and hopeful. Thanks for uplifting and blessing lives. XO

  15. So articulate, Shawni!

    If God is real (and many people, including myself, believe He is), He must have ideas about how we should behave and the best ways to help us grow and learn these 'enlightened' behaviors. Everybody has access to His directions and influence whether active in a church or not.
    The 'organized religion' that is the LDS church, is an apparatus through which His gospel can shine. It is structured exactly to His specifications through a living prophet (is my belief, and the belief of it's members). You become 'tangled' as it were, in exercises exactly prescribed for the most benefit to oneself, and that persons scope of influence.
    Mediocre example (lol): Working out with a plan has a greater and positive affect than having no organized plan. Especially if that plan has been spelled out by a Genius in the field, who knows you even better than you know yourself! And you will have good days, and bad days. Hard committed workouts, and lazy workouts. Most days we don't look as fit as our trainer. Still there's hope. Some may even say "you don't seem as fit as you should be!" Nonetheless . . you hang in there, it is very rewarding, and it soon becomes clear it is a good thing you are working at, and towards.

    I can share, it is the best thing I have ever done for myself, and those who have to live or work or associate with me 🙂

  16. Opposition in all things… of course someone who portrays and embodies a happy, healthy, functioning family will be attacked. Take it as a sign that you are doing something right!

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