First, let me say, I have NEVER met Al Fox Carraway. She probably doesn’t even know I exist. That being said, she has been an incredible friend to me without even knowing she is doing so!!
Let me tell you why I am such a big fan of this daughter of God.
Some would say that this young lady, who is part of my grown children’s generation, and I have little to nothing in common. She hails from western New York in a town I’ve never been to, and I’m across the country in Olympia, Washington.
We are both writers and converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who each were very ingrained in the culture of the world before we were baptized.
Our paths were remarkably different in those conversions.
While I was taking lessons with Sister Missionaries, members of the church I was investigating introduced me to Al.
Al’s side of our meeting is described in her book, More than A Tattooed Mormon:
“I was on the cover of LDS Living Magazine for two months, and my most popular blog post, “Tattooed Mormon,” was released, reaching over a million views in just half a day.”
I was only one of the millions of views that came AFTER that day.
A woman from the Ward where I was receiving my lessons gave me a copy of the LDS Living Magazine with Al on the cover.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the people in my new church had noticed ink on my neck and arms (tattoos) and that is why they had felt prompted to give me the magazine.
I loved the article.
Before my baptism I wasn’t quite sure of myself, but I felt a new confidence when I saw Al’s face and (especially her arms) next to another gorgeous convert with the word in large letters, “Converts” on the cover of LDS Living.
My people. My worldwide new family.
I was baptized on March 23, 2013. I had found my people.
It is a strange feeling. When you feel like a hexagon in a oval world for 46 years. I just have too many sharp pointy edges to fit in with this world. Or at least that is how I felt most of my life.
But Al had pointy edges too. And although she didn’t have as long on this earth before her baptism as I had to sharpen those pointy edges, I could tell by her arms that she sharpened those points herself. Much like me.
In Al’s first book, More Than The Tattooed Mormon, she reminds us, “Don’t waste your thoughts comparing yourself and defining yourself by what you aren’t and others are. Don’t allow yourself to question, “What is wrong with me?”
It is so difficult to follow that advice, but she was right! Here is a young lady with her head in the scriptures and her knees on the ground in prayer and she GETS IT! Yes!!!
I followed Al very casually up until she began recording vlogs starring her family. In January 2018, I was beginning my second term of my post-graduate work in creative nonfiction writing, and here was this beautiful young Latter-day Saint nonfiction writer showing her life and reminding ME that I needed to love myself “and take care of my soul.”
It was exactly the boost I needed. Those videos encouraged me through some of the darkest months of my life.
A year before her vlogs began, I had been living in my car, traveling the country on my way to graduating in New Hampshire.
When Al shared in her posts these last few weeks that her family was homeless because of circumstances, I remembered the paradigm I was living in not too long ago.
I remember getting to churches across the country just after dawn. Sometimes, I stayed in the back of the parking lot the night before. When the first cars would come in for their meetings, unlocking the doors, I would put my toiletries and my church clothes in a large cloth purse and casually enter a ladies accessible bathroom.
In that bathroom, while I sat on the toilet (after wetting a washcloth in the sink) I washed myself, and I changed my clothes.
A year later I would find myself changing my clothes on a toilet in my own house and remember where I had started that habit.
After I changed and all of my things were back in my huge black cloth purse with peace signs on it, I went to the sink and washed up further, combing my hair and putting my dentures in.
I carefully swiped with a paper towel to make sure my presence wouldn’t be noticed, and I was back out the door.
Homeless. In these latter days. It is happening more around us than we realize.
Al and Ben and their three wonderful children are currently stuck in a hotel room while people and promises get life and futures worked out. It may not seem rough to some, but for a young family displaced in uncertainty, it is considerably stressful. Then add a global pandemic.
Al’s righteous strength and fortitude makes her light shine even stronger as a lighthouse leading so many people to God. Some of us (read: ME) spend far too much time online, but having encouraging content to watch makes all the difference.
As a grandma with no children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (yet two of my grandchildren are Baptised?!?), I adore the window that Al and Ben have graciously and generously afforded to the public into their family life.
I am emboldened in my faith and optimism because of HER faith and her brave and loud worship and praise for our Heavenly Father.
Al reads all of her books herself. It is so incredibly uplifting to hear her say these words:
“What if every step is the miracle?”
“God is Good…He is actively a part of our spirits.”
“We are His, and that is EVERYTHING.”
“You and your efforts are important, they don’t go unnoticed.”
Just like the rest of us, I need to be reminded of God’s place in my life, daily.
But just like Jesus Christ is each of our Eternal Friend, Al Carraway is doing her very best to be like our Savior and be a friend to those in need. That is a very wonderful thing.
We live in difficult times. These are the latter days. I’m incredibly happy to be here, on earth, at the same time as the Carraway family. They bring so much light into my life.
You may not know me, Sister Al Carraway, but I thank you for being YOU and for bringing so much of God’s love and light into my life.