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When Elaine Dalton heard about the vision for RubyGirl.org, she immediately voiced her support.
“In my previous calling as (LDS) Young Women general president, I met with young women from around the world,” Dalton told the Deseret News. “My observation was that they are strong, bright and desirous to do the right thing. They are the noble generation of which prophets have testified. They live in a world of great challenge but also of great opportunity. They sometimes feel isolated and alone in living the gospel of Jesus Christ and keeping their baptismal covenants.
“I have dreamed of being able to provide a place where young women can connect to strengthen each other and to teach each other. Ruby Girl is a dream come true.”
The website was created by Michelle Lehnardt, a Utah mother of six, whose home has served as a refuge for several teenage girls who experienced the feelings of isolation and loneliness Dalton described. When a friend suggested she create a website for young women, Lehnardt immediately loved the idea and began brainstorming. She reflected on conversations she had with young women in her life.
“Wouldn’t it be great if there were an online place where girls could all connect?” Lehnardt thought.
Ruby Girl is a website designed to help young women across the world feel connected and supported. The name comes from the scripture in Proverbs 31:10, which reads, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
“Rubies help every young woman know that she is more precious than rubies,” Dalton said. “And they are.”
With the help of friends around the world, Lehnardt has created a place that allows young women to share their personal experiences and testimonies in hopes that they will help each other and find that they are not alone. The website is non-commercial and is not affiliated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“People just relate to each other better than they think they do,” Lehnardt said. “A lot of the time I think we think, ‘I’m the only person asking this question,’ and ‘I’m the only one struggling with this.’ But when we’re genuine with each other, we find that we’re all struggling with things and we all have questions and insecurities.”
One of the website’s most popular features is “Ruby Answers,” an advice column that allows young women to submit questions about life situations.
“We don’t want to spoon-feed them,” Lehnardt said. “We want to help them find their own answers.”
One of the people who has helped Lehnardt most with the site is Taylor Berhow, who works with teenagers during her day job with Valley Behavioral Health and Second Nature 360. She devotes a significant amount of time to Ruby Girl.
“I think it’s already harder to be a member of this church than it was when I was a teenager,” Berhow said. “I think more than ever teenagers are being pulled in a bunch of different directions simply because they want to feel accepted by their surroundings. I think there’s this worldly piece of acceptance and if you don’t feel accepted in your home or by your ward or by your church you’re going to seek acceptance elsewhere.”
Ruby Girl is her way of helping girls find the acceptance they seek.
“I think Ruby Girl is an opportunity for girls to seek out acceptance and to feel loved and supported in their beliefs and to know that there are other girls out there who probably need to feel that acceptance also,” Berhow said. “It’s this kind of camaraderie around Jesus Christ and around loving one another and supporting one another.”
Lehnardt has always been a big fan of teenagers. She believes they are better than people give them for credit for.
“People talk about this generation like they’re so lame and it’s just not true,” she said. “They have more depth, they have greater understanding and I think they’re craving that depth and understanding.”
Lehnardt has allowed teenagers to be the voices of the site. She has recruited the help of young women throughout the world, including France, Germany and Africa, to provide feedback but also to write articles. And it’s not just for those who consider themselves good writers.
“We hope to encourage writing as a tool for spiritual, personal and emotional development,” the site explains. “Every girl has her own authentic story. It can be spiritual, funny, honest, joyful and growth promoting. Writing is a creative work rooted in growth. How are you growing? What have you learned along the way?”
The results have been just what Lehnardt hoped. For example, Monique Masina, a 16-year-old friend of Lehnardt’s sons, wrote an article titled “You are his scar story,” inspired by the scripture found in Isaiah that says, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).
“I had surgery in September and I was thinking and I saw my scar on my ankle and I remembered everything that came with that scar, like how I got it, why I got it and then I was reading my scriptures … and it reminded me of my scar,” Masina said. “And I just thought about how he can’t forget us because we are his scar and it really relates to everyone because everyone has scars and can remember what happened to them.”
Meanwhile, Lehnardt’s niece Lizzy Mitchell, who just completed her freshman year at BYU, shared what she has learned about dating and men: “Either he likes you or he doesn’t.”
The site has become what Lehnardt dreamed it would be: a place to belong.
“I feel like it’s a place where someone could go, like a girl who feels lonely or needs to ask questions about something … she can go to Ruby Girl, and I feel like that’s really good,” said Hannah Hall, a teenager who lives with her family in Paris.
“Even if you have a handful of young women friends at church, sometimes you feel like you’re still alone and struggling with what you feel like are unique problems, and I think it’s just part of growing up and transitioning,” said Hannah’s mother, Renee Hall. “Ruby Girl makes it fun and makes it really accessible. The world is so connected with electronics and everything that any time day or night you can get online and see that people are asking real questions and they might be similar to your questions or might be similar problems to what you’re having.”
“Ruby Answers” is in a format similar to that of “Dear Abby,” where young women can submit questions that are then answered by an anonymous “Ruby.”
“Dear Ruby,” one young woman recently wrote. “My parents keep fighting and I hate it. It makes me so scared.”
“Ruby” responded with a personal account of her own alcoholic father and then wrote, “The ironic, and yet, perfectly predictable thing about all of this is my own earliest memory of God’s love is indubitably linked to a moment where I felt so unloved. My earthly father could never love his daughter in the ways I needed at the time but my Heavenly Father always could. And thus the most important rule of life is once again demonstrated with potency and clarity: there is opposition in all things.”
Ruby Girl is a work in progress. With the site’s growth and reach expanding daily, the vision continues to expand. This summer, Ruby Girl will host a one-day retreat for girls ages 12-18 at LDS Business College. As her vision for the site continues to expand, Lehnardt says one thing about the future of Ruby Girl is certain.
“It will always be a place that we will be proud to have Elaine Dalton read,” Lehnardt said. “We’re going to support the prophet. We’re going to support the brethren.”
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