Ever since my children started to be born over 8 years ago, I have gone through fits and starts of singing to them each night before they go to bed. Lately, I haven’t been singing as much, and I made a conscious effort to start up again.
I remember when I first had my feminist awakening, and my now-8-year-old was only 3-years-old. I chose some songs from the Children’s Songbook that I still agreed with and liked, and at the top of the list was always the song I remembered as being called “Whenever I Hear the Song of a Bird”.
I looked it up and re-realized the title is actually “My Heavenly Father Loves Me”. I don’t mind that title, but to me the song is about the beautiful creation of the world, and all it’s wonders. I will always call it “Whenever I Hear the Song of a Bird” in my head.
After I looked it up, I realized that I really missed my Heavenly Mother. And as I kneeled next to M’s bed at night and sang to him, I couldn’t help but think that my Heavenly Mother would have sung to me, if she could have. And then I started to imagine her singing to me, listening to me, looking down on me.
Eventually, I imagined her creating the world. Carefully crafting each animal, each flower, each blade of grass, each mountain, each person, and holding them all in her consciousness. I started to sing this new version of Whenever I Hear the Song of a Bird to my son, and later, both of my sons.
Whenever I Hear the Song of a Bird
(My Heavenly Mother Loves Me)
Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue blue sky
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly mother created for me
She gave my eyes that I might see
The color of butterfly wings
She gave my ears that I might hear
The wonderful sound of things
She gave me my life, my mind, my heart
I thank her reverently
For all her creations for which I’m a part
Yes, I know Heavenly Mother loves me.
The first time I sang it out loud, I could barely make it through the song without my voice breaking. It’s the second verse that really got me, that still gets me, really.
All those “she”s, as the image dances in my mind of my Heavenly Mother creating me and all the wonders of nature. For me, the feminine wound is undeniable during that second verse.
And so here I am, still singing to my boys at night. I am a skeptic, an atheist, a pagan, a spiritual person, a singer, and a dreamer. I still sing about my Heavenly Mother to my children. Sometimes.
And I sing about her for myself. To give myself that feeling of being enough, of being something vast and all-encompassing enough like a goddess.
Because everyone, especially every child, and most especially every female child, deserves to know that the feminine divine is a possibility. Even if she doesn’t really exist, the idea of her does. This is idea is no small thing. Proving her tangible existence isn’t the point.
Even if the doctrine is unclear, how do we think of her? Why is she so absent? And not just in Mormonism, but in Western civilization?
I call her to me each time I sing about her in this way. I call her to me every time I imagine that I am as powerful as she is.
I claim a central place for her in the heavens as I claim a central place for myself on earth.
Do you sing to your children? Do you teach them about Heavenly Mother? What do you teach them?
Thanks for posting this, Kendahl. I love thinking of this song in this new way. It is one of my favorites too. This meaning makes the song feel more complete to me.
I love to sing my daughter “She’s Got the Whole World In Her Hands” as I rock her before bed.
I love this…small and simple changes totally make me want to sing this to my kids every night. Thanks for this post, kmillecam!
Thanks for sharing these beautiful experiences!
As a Primary music leader, I changed “Heavenly Father” to “Heavenly Parents” in that song. But I like your version better.
If you haven’t heard of the Finding Heavenly Mother facebook group, I can highly recommend it!
Funny, I was just thinking of making the same changes to “Heavenly Mother, are you really there? And do you hear and answer every child’s prayer? … “
This is beautiful, brought tears to my eyes.
I love what you’re doing with your children. I love what you’ve written here. Such a beautiful story. And the song – deeply touching. I have always sung to my children at bedtime. Now I do the same thing with my grand children. This is among the most motherly things I know – the bedtime singing, humming. I know many fathers do the same, but it will always represent “mother” to me.
Over the years I have changed the masculine to feminine in various songs. When they were young I referred to Heavenly Mother from time-to-time. As my children became teenagers and older, they became more interested and aware of my writing, some of which included poetry about God the Mother.
Interestingly, while thinking about how to respond to your queries, it dawned on me that the one thing that has witnessed most powerfully to my children about Heavenly Mother is me. Just me. I think this is true for every child. Her own mother, by reflecting attributes of God, bears witness of God the Mother.
Additionally, because I raised my kids as a single mom, I assumed the role of provider, protector, nurturer, healer, enforcer, teacher – all of which offered an example of a powerful (if flawed) woman. We spoke often about the phrase “priesthood in the home” and how that meant “worthy man in the house.” As they became adults, served missions, etc. they discovered that the power of priesthood was present in our home even without a man. We identified it as a combination of my commitment to temple covenants and the watchful eye of God, supporting our father-less family.
I never would have chosen this life of my own accord. The absence of a loving man in our home was a tragedy and we have all suffered – having our tender hearts broken, as the Book of Mormon so perfectly describes it. Yet, the witness of divine feminine came into our lives, in large part because of this circumstance.
Well, that was a lot longer than I intended. But thank you for giving me an opportunity to think about this. Again, lovely post. I’m using these lyrics the next time I sing to my grand kidlets!