Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Shantel

This is a big day, ladies. Today I get to introduce you to one of my favorite people in the whole world.  Shantel was my best friend in Minnesota.  She and her family moved in to our ward about a year after we did, but I was in Primary and didn’t really have the chance to get to know her.  Somehow I knew she was into theater, so one night on a whim, I called her up and invited her to go see a Shakespeare play.  I wanted to go, but Matt’s not really into Old English, and I wanted someone to enjoy it with me.  The play was awesome. Well, that started a friendship that I think I can say was, and still is, a huge blessing to both of us.  (Shantel, I just had a thought.  Was I your visiting teacher for a couple of months?  Is that how I knew about your theater background?  Man, if so, this is a great VT success story.  Woohoo!, I finally have something inspirational to say at those annual visiting teaching conferences where I usually just feel guilty.) To make a long story short, Shantel is a soul-friend.  We have seen each other cry and make fools of ourselves and we’ve also cheered each other on through accomplishments big and small.  And our husbands get along too, which is a rare blessing that made for many fun double dates.  Matt knows that whenever I’m fretting about something or trying to think it all the way through, if I just call Shantel, I’ll get more insight and feel better.  I feel truly lucky to count her among my very best friends.  She’s amazing, but overly modest, so I will be interrupting her interview regularly to give you my biased commentary.  Okay, friends, behold Shantel:

Hello! My name is Shantel Gardner. I live in Apple Valley, Minnesota with my husband Joel and five children. I have been married 15 years, and my children are as follows: Brooklyn- 14, Sawyer-11, Porter- 8, Ella- 6 and Emma 4. Oh– and we have an overweight Golden Retriever named Maggie. She’s the awesome that makes our family awesome.

I grew up in the small farming metropolis (that means no stop light) town of Duchesne, Utah. After graduating, I went to Snow College, then moved to Vegas — where I met Joel– and attended UNLV. Two weeks after we were married, we moved to Arizona, where I attended ASU- (do you have college whiplash yet?) –and we started our family. We lived there for about 11 years, then one year in Reno, and then *BAM* Minnesota. I am now at the U of M getting my two bachelors in Religious Studies and History, with a minor in Jewish Studies. I am a historian of early Mormon Church history, with emphasis on Emma Smith and the personal life of Joseph Smith. I also serve on the board for the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith historical society under the direction of Elder Ballard, and I do a lot of stuff and things for them [like speak at conferences in Nauvoo, Palmyra, Winter Quarters, etc., including family reunions for the direct descendants of Joseph and Emma to help them learn more about their amazing ancestry].

What’s your favorite part of motherhood? I love that Motherhood is so loved by the Lord. I love that the everyday, ordinary, mundane tasks that I do every day are like crown jewels to him and He treasures them so much. I love knowing that what I have chosen to do with my life makes him happy and is the most valuable thing in the Kingdom of God.

What part of motherhood would you subcontract out if you could? Listening to the whining. I mean come on people….get over yourselves.

Name 2 or 3 items on your “bucket list.” (Some things you’d like to do before you die.) Finish my degree, see the Holy Land- and most importantly and number one- meet my grandchildren. At least attend one birth- then I’m good. Beam me up Scotty.  [oh yeah, Shantel’s a doula too, which I honestly used to think was a little whackadoodle, but then she helped deliver my sister’s baby, and I honestly think my sister would now trade me in for Shantel if she could.]

Brag for a minute. Do it. What are a few things that you’re pretty good at? I am good at seeing angles of things that most people don’t see. Also details about things most people don’t see. This has been the greatest blessing of my life.

What are you loving lately? George Washington, Buddhism and lemon orzo soup from Panera. Amazing man and amazing soup! [She emailed me yesterday and told me to add Hebrew and Professor Levinson to this list.  She just started the class at the University of Minnesota this week, and as of this afternoon, successfully memorized the Hebrew alphabet.]

Do you have a favorite scripture or quote? Why? When Joseph Smith restored the Relief Society, he said, “If you live up to your privileges, angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.” That is a few words with a powerful punch. And he was telling the truth!

What’s something you don’t usually want people to know about you, but that they need to know if they’re going to be your friend? I have high-functioning Asperger’s [on the autism spectrum], so I have little-to-no filter– I can’t make decisions like “where are we going to eat?” and I hyper-obsess on topics. So you have to have good self-esteem, constantly assume I mean the best and kind of take over anytime there is anything social happening. Flip-side of this is that I am like a brick wall to offend. And I love a fair amount of irreverence. If you can make me laugh- I will probably stalk you. [You also need to know (and she probably wouldn’t tell you this) that all of her children– yes all FIVE– are diagnosed with varying degrees of autism.  I cannot begin to tell you what a mother phenomenon she is, but she hates to be told that because they are just her children and they’re awesome, and she doesn’t see her circumstances as any special kind of challenge.  She is absolutely confident that the Lord parents them and she’s just an assistant.]

If you were in charge of a girls’ night out, what kind of activity would you love to plan? I don’t plan- I tag along. [Guess what? She’s coming to visit me next week and we’re having an entire girls’ weekend. I can’t wait.]

Friends are great for venting. What’s been frustrating you lately? Let me use this question to talk about friends. I love diversity, and I love to have friends that don’t share my beliefs. I don’t like being agreed with all the time. I recoil from judgment on anybody or anything- but I do my share of it, so when I vent, I need someone to just roll with me- I will eventually move on.

What parts of your testimony are you the most sure of? A few things are rock solid for me:  Jesus Christ is the literal head of this church. He runs this church and it is His. Every jot and tittle. Joseph Smith IS a prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. [Shantel has an amazing testimony of the prophet Joseph and the restoration.  She has dedicated years of prayerful study to understanding the lives, history, personalities and circumstances of Joseph and Emma.  I once wrote a little bit about that here.]

Desert Island Question. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take 3 items with you, what would they be? My pillow, chocolate, my laptop (with Wi-Fi)

What homemaking job/task gives you the most satisfaction? The parenting part, when I can see I got through. A child feels loved, or got a life principle. Or when I see things I like about Joel or myself showing up in my kids. [Her oldest daughter is the funnest combination of both of them, by the way.]

Shantel hasn’t written on her blog for several months and she felt embarrassed to even mention it, plus it’s private, so I’m going to direct you to a cool two-part series she wrote about Emma Smith over at “Women in the Scriptures”: Part 1 and Part 2.

Please take a minute to say hello to Shantel in the comments below.  I know she’ll check them compulsively hoping that people didn’t think she’s an idiot.  🙂  Thank you, thank you, Shantel.  Thank you for being such a good friend and good example to me.  It’s a gift to know someone like you.

Happy weekend, everyone.