Editor’s note: This essay was posted a few months ago, but we thought it fit perfectly in this week’s series on motherhood. Jennifer shares how she has been blessed to fulfill her desire to mother, even though she has never had children of her own. As Sister Sheri Dew once taught, and as has been taught by other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, We Are All Mothers.

~by Jennifer

Mormon woman brings hope to people in Africa

I’m living an unexpected life. But aren’t we all?

My eight-year-old declaration of my life’s work was: I am going to be a mother. My second grade teacher didn’t like that; she kept insisting that I needed to pick a “profession.” I was adamant. I would be a mother, and that was final. Everything I have done from that day forward pointed to that eventual goal. Important decisions all centered around how to best prepare myself to be the kind of mother I knew I was meant to be.

My 13-year-old heart was drawn into the world, with the images of famine in Ethiopia and personal participation in a Church-wide fast for famine relief. I knew one day I’d go to that country to help. My mother heart (see Julie Beck, Ensign or Liahona, May 2004) reached out in compassion as it was being prepared to fulfill my life’s work. My unexpected life’s work.

Years have passed. I’ve obtained various academic degrees. I’ve worked many jobs. I’ve served in many capacities and I’ve seen some of the world and the children of the world. I’ve never married.

I have unexpectedly never expected a child.

There have been minutes, days, months…years of heartache and anguish of this unfulfilled dream. Wondering what I failed to plan that “kept me” from realizing my dream. Wondering if I should have said “yes” to some of the men who’ve crossed my path. Wondering if my expecting was somehow wrong.

But there have also been moments of clarity.

Moments of certainty.

I am living the life I am meant to live.

This IS my perfect life.

AND I am a mother.

A mother of thousands, really.

My decision to teach seminary [youth scripture class for ages 14-18] opened my heart to this reality. It struck me, once again, the other day when I received a picture text of a one hour old baby… the newborn daughter of one of my former students. I must have done something for him to remember ME and want me to know about this child entering the world.

Or the text I received just this morning from a former student entering the missionary training center: “Thanks for your patience, love and support. I love you! Jesus is the Christ and has restored His gospel once more! God be with you ‘til we meet again!” I never expected that.

A year and a half ago I took the trip of a lifetime, traveling to the Holy Land, seeking holiness. I wanted to change. Imagine my surprise when the thought came powerfully to my mind and heart: You need to work on a PhD. So I did. I came home and was enrolled in courses two months later. I’m in my second year now.

A little over a year ago I met two women who reminded me of my desire to work with the children and families of Ethiopia. I begged them to take me. They needed someone to do research for their organization. It was serendipity. A miracle, really. Unexpected.

I’ve traveled to Ethiopia. Every day includes something to help the children and families I met and will meet. The children of Ethiopia have won my heart. I pray for them, I think of them, I love them. They NEED a mother. (Did you know there are over four million orphaned children in Ethiopia? Over 12% of all children? )

Mormon woman helps children in Africa

I was studying the Abrahamic Covenant the other day. Oh how I love Father Abraham! I have always thought of the promise of multiplying in the context of bearing children. (See, for example, Genesis 22:17-18, Genesis 32:12.) I’ve expected that multiplication would perhaps only be later for me. In the next life.

Not anymore.

During this early morning scripture study, I felt that sweet whispering: “I’m multiplying YOU so you have a greater capacity to love them.” Multiplying unexpectedly.

I suppose I needed a will alignment. I know that as I’m learning to want what HE wants me to want, my course is smoother, straighter, satisfying. Who knew that my children would come in such painless ways? Who knew that they’d be so vast in ages, experiences, needs — and even live on different continents?

Mormon woman Jennifer in Ethopia with Hope Arising

Who knew?

He knew.

He knows.

And so do I.

Oh, how I love mothering.

Just as I expected I would.