January 8th was my last Sunday in Washington State before I embarked on a journey that would take me completely across the United States. That Sunday I
spent with the Manchester Ward in the Bremerton, Washington Stake. It was the area where I was staying with a friend. Those friends were gracious enough to give me a place to stay for the holidays with easy access to visit the areas where my family and friends live.
On January 11th, I left Washington state, heading out to the coast to avoid a snowstorm that was engulfing Portland, Oregon. I followed hwy 101 down the Pacific Coast, through Washington, then Oregon, stopping briefly to see a dear friend in a town overlooking the southern Oregon coast before heading through northern California where snow in the Redwoods attempted to hamper our travels again.
It took a couple of days, but Sunday found us in Arizona. There was a momentary choice when I realized that I could make it to my Branch, Concho, to attend services. The contention between my soon-to-be ex-husband who I was to be at divorce court with that coming Thursday and his live-in girlfriend who would both be attending our Branch’s Sacrament, made me think better of it. Instead, I spent January 15 listening to General Conference talks and Gospel music with a friend while we made snowmen at the Grand Canyon.
We did make it to St. John’s Arizona before the Addiction Recovery meeting ended that evening. It was a welcome support for the issues surrounding the co-dependency I had discovered within myself. One of the reasons for the delay in the divorce, or even possibly the marriage in the first place.
Wednesday was a good day to visit the wonderful Snowflake Temple at the suggestion of one of my dear Concho Branch friends. Peggy and her husband Brian had provided showers and transportation to the temple every Friday during some of the worst times of my marriage and at her suggestion
we went for a session the day before the hearing. It was the peace I needed.
After the divorce hearing on Thursday, the weather reports were ominous: A storm that was predicted to drop three feet of snow was on it’s way to the area. I did NOT want to be stuck in an one horse town with my now-ex-husband and the woman he moved on with. Too much drama for my brain to handle. So, I got a blessing from my Branch President at the Church building, and headed out through New Mexico towards Texas.
The time we spent in Texas (my friend Jacob who was traveling with me has family in Pipe Creek) was without a church visit. However, Jacob’s fa
mily are all church members and we had quite the meeting in their home as many Gospel topics were discussed. It was like having a church meeting in their home. I imagined many meetings like it occurring in the early days of The Church.
From Texas, where I was also able to visit the beautiful Houston Temple, we headed for Florida, stopping only quickly in Alabama to visit a couple of friends. By January 29th, we were in Lake Mary, Florida. The church services were enjoyable for me on a rainy day while the dogs and Jacob rested next to the Spanish Moss laden trees.
That week, Jacob and I headed to Key West to check out the sites and gather some photographs for the magazine for which I was compiling a few stories. Although the magazine and I were to part ways before those were published, the opportunity to live sunrise to sunset while gathering some show-stopping photos was quite an enjoyable experience.
The Key West Branch building had a small picnic area in back of the building put together by a young Brother as a part of an Eagle Scout project. It was a fantastic little area to escape the hustle and bustle of a thriving tourist area of Key West in the middle of tourist season. The service on February 5th was absolutely what I needed. Peaceful and true, testimonies were shared from the pulpit that filled my heart with peace and hope.
The next Sunday, February 12th, found us at the Coconut Creek Ward in Florida. It was the last Sunday that Jacob was there to watch the dogs while I attended services. The Branch that met after the Ward was a Haitian-Creole Branch where for the first time I heard a language that sounded like people were singing to one another. It was beautiful.
The Fort Lauderdale Temple was gorgeous in the light of the sun
rise when I visited. Jacob had an opportunity to do a bit of service snapping photos of myself and other patrons and I met a few fellow member-missionaries before I finished with our photos.
After Jacob hopped a plane back to his home in Washington from Fort Lauderdale, I headed back north. My next stop was in Palm Bay. It was in this Floridian Ward where I met some of the most wonderful people on my journey. A sister named Nikki invited me for dinner and a her daughter gave up her bed for a night so that I might stretch out a bit. The night previous in the area had seen a vicious attack by mosquitoes that seemed to grow to enormous sizes, a night indoors was so welcomed. The prayers from Nikki’s entire family still are felt in my travels.
From Palm Bay, I headed to DeLand, Florida. I was still in my church clothes from attending DeLand’s Second Ward service on February 26, when I was putting up my tent about 50 miles away in the National Forest for a time out while recovering from a chest cold I had picked up in my travels.
I spent the week at the campground before heading up to Interlachen, Florida to share my Testimony in a meeting where I was a few minutes late in arriving. The other testimonies I listened to in this tiny Ward filled my heart with light and happiness at the last Floridian Ward I would be visiting.
From Florida, I headed out to the South Carolina coast. I was enjoying the sunrises in Hilton Head, and I failed to “scout” the location of the local ward. On a cloudy Sunday morning where I had a feeling I should go early, I found that the Meetinghouse on Hilton Head had sustained a great deal of damage during the hurricane in the previous October. I contacted the Bishop and he informed me that services were held at the Beaufort Ward building. I headed up there and arrived
in time to take in an extra Relief Society meeting as well as meeting with the Hilton Head Ward.
From Beaufort, South Carolina, I headed inland to a tiny place called Monck’s Corner. In Monck’s Corner, South Carolina I met a sister in Relief Society who had a connection to the northwest and added a task to my list for when I return to my home state. I will be attempting to find her daughter’s grave site.
I met another wonderful group of Sisters in the Relief Society of the Windsor Lake Ward in Columbia, South Carolina where my travels took me while I was searching for my 4th great grandmother who was born in South Carolina in 1808. The sisters in the Windsor Lake Ward were more than welcoming and I enjoyed watching Women’s session of General Conference with them. A dear sister named Leanna even offered us a place to stretch out for a few days with friends for the dogs included!
It was in Columbia, South Carolina where I celebrated the 4th anniversary of my Baptism by visiting the Columbia Temple. I remained in the Columbia area for General Conference, before heading to North Carolina.
North Carolina, in a little town named Kernersville, I met a Bishop who called himself “Charlie” and a Ward full of Saints. I was overwhelmed with their welcoming and all around southern hospitality. I got to church, as I usually do no matter where I am, a bit early. I was rewarded for my effort not only with some quiet time in the chapel and an opportunity to meet a few of the patrons, but the wonderful sister who baked the Sacrament bread had baked three extra loaves. I was offered one, and I was so thankful to accept it. I took the opportunity to share with them one of the only things that I can, my Testimony of Christ.
After a week of car repairs, beginning in Columbia, South Carolina and finishing in Kernersville, North Carolina, I was impressed to head north to my destination. By Easter I had arrived in New Hampshire, the site of my daughter’s (and my)
graduation in May. I made it. And Easter services at another Manchester Ward.
It was the first time that I had ever seen a Mission Office located in a meetinghouse! They seem to do things a bit differently in New England. But just like the other meetinghouses I have visited, it was full of welcoming Sisters and Brothers. More extended family.
From Manchester to Manchester, I have met friends who are family across the nation. I am so blessed to know each and every one of them. They are my Brothers and Sisters. I am blessed to be a Latter-Day Saint, a member of a family that is Eternal.