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.


28 thoughts on “Find-A-Friend Friday: Meet Shantel

  1. I loved this! Shantel sounds super cool and interesting and fun and spunky… kinda wishing I could crash your girl’s weekend. *sigh* Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  2. I too, loved reading this and learning about someone new. I think she sounds like an amazing woman. I wish she had an active blog so that I could get to know her better. I am really interested in all the things she has managed to study!! Good for you Shantel!!

  3. Shantel–Amazing! I agree 100% that the Lord parents our children and we are just assistants. I love that feeling when I can let go and believe what he knows about my children, and let Him teach me how to help them.

  4. Shantel, it’s fun to meet you! I am really impressed with the kinds of things you’re involved in, it is so wonderful that you have immersed yourself so much in Church history and the first prophet of our dispensation. I admire that, greatly. And may I say, one time on a whim (read: new-baby insomnia) I decided to learn the military alphabet just for fun, and next thing I know, we’re in the military! So I have decided that now that you’ve learned the Hebrew alphabet, next thing you know that chance to see the Holy Land will appear (my fortune-telling comes with a money back guarantee, by the way)! 😉 I love your attitude toward motherhood, it’s heartening to me to think that the little things I do really do matter and can even count as an acceptable offering to the Lord. Thank you for sharing a little bit of yourself with us!

    • I LOVE the fortune! I have allready at a Phd at the U of M tell me when I get through all the Hebrew- he would take me. So I am using it like the carrot for the race. 🙂 Motherhood is sacred. Every speck of it. Even the gross parts. The Lord is so cool.

  5. Ummmm….HELLO Shantel! You are also one of my favorite people, just saying! OK, if we don’t meet up for lunch on campus this semester when we are both there I will find no reason to go on living. And….my undergrad is in History – I have got some great stuff on George Washington that I used to teach my 8th graders!! I will dig it out…sometime…..I was so wacky about George that Jim gave me big picture of him on one of our first Christmases, it still one of my favorite things! Anyway, try to not be so cool, you are really making us all look bad!!!!

    • YES ON LUNCH!!!!! I am there everyday- so email me and we will plan. I cant tell you how badly I wanted to see a familiar face this week. I probally would have cried. Just seeing the missionaries across the street about did me in. Being surrounded by somuch religion, and none of yet- yet ALL of it- belongs to you. Emotional.

  6. You sound like so much fun, Shantel! Shakespeare and reckless abandon with thought-sharing? Awesome combo of loveable things. If you do any symposiums or the like around these parts, I want to know about it. I will come. I love Church History and wish I’d majored in religious studies and history so I could get more involved in the research and study. So cool.

    • I give friseides or lectures, depending on where I am- all over. Where are you at? I just have to be asked by someone- and I come. Stephanie is usually appraised of my whereabouts. 😉 Thankyou for the kind words.

  7. Hi Shantel! So cool you’re a doula, I had one for my recent birth and I don’t know how I could have done it without her.

    Good luck with your university studies, hope you get to see the Holy Land someday.

  8. I’ve just got to know Shantel through my blog but she is wonderful! If there is any girl’s night crashing going on let me know! I’d love to meet you both in real life sometime 🙂

  9. What a great interview! I don’t remember much about you from Duchesne, mostly because I just have a bad memory, but it has been fun to get to know about you on facebook! I’m constantly amazed!!!

  10. Hey Shantel! This is fun! I actually read your two part series over on Women in the Scriptures back when you wrote it (I read Heather’s blog pretty religiously). And I have to say I absolutely LOVED the pieces on Emma, and I was really grateful for you teaching us all a little about Emma. She has since become my biggest role model (not that I didn’t love her before, I just hadn’t really thought about her a lot). Now whenever life seems “hard” I just think about Emma and suddenly I can’t feel as sorry for myself anymore.

    Anyway, it was fun to get to know you personally, since I first “met” you as an expert on Emma.

  11. Shantel,
    I just have to say “wow” and thank you for sharing. A friend of mine sent me to this page and I know she was inspired. I have a 10 year old daughter with high- functioning Asperger’s and ADHD. We’ve been really having some struggles lately. Reading your interview gave me renewed hope tonight about all the wonderful possibilties for her future (if we can just survive puberty). Thank you.

  12. I can vouch for the fact that Shantel is indeed an amazing woman. She has been special to me since the time I became pregnant with her. I am so proud that she has continued to enrich the lives of those around her and those she meets. I know that our Heavenly Father is also a special friend to her and that she rely s on him for the strength that she needs to accomplish his work. I do Love her so very much. Her MOM

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