Wrestling with God

I haven’t been writing here for quite some time. I have been engaging in a wrestle with God.

That wrestle was started a long time ago, yet I was unaware for most of it. I felt angry. I took that anger out on the most innocent people around me.

These last few months, without church services, I lost connection with most of my Ward. So, I began to seek out more connections online with members of The Church, not just in my area.

When I was talking with a new friend and a bit of the world fell out of my mouth, I began to see that I wasn’t as close to Jesus Christ as I thought I was.

In last month’s General Conference, President Nelson advised us, “As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.”

The Holy Spirit witnessed to me that my stage in my continuing conversion process was far from where I wanted it to be. Unbeknownst to me, I had allowed myself to fall far to the side of where I wanted to be. I was swimming in the stream of filth alongside the path to the Tree.

How did I get there? Why was I there? How could I fall so far, so fast?

Spite. Anger. Betrayal. And I felt like I had a RIGHT to those emotions. After all, I had been lied to and betrayed, right?

Then, I prayed. I poured myself into The Book of Mormon. I read Isaiah.

I was impressed to seek to be closer to God. First I needed to change my environment. I turned off the worldly entertainment, both video and audio. I deleted all of the apps.

I turned on Gospel music and General Conference talks. I spent hours every day reading and pondering on scriptures.

In April’s talk “Hear Him,” President Nelson taught:

It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now. In the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is the messenger. He will bring thoughts to your mind which the Father and Son want you to receive. He is the Comforter. He will bring a feeling of peace to your heart. He testifies of truth and will confirm what is true as you hear and read the word of the Lord.

I prayed again.

The Holy Spirit said in answer, “The natural man includes the temptation to hold grudges. Anything that is not based in Love, not based in God, in good, is none of these things. There is no darkness in the Lighte.”

I was given the impression that I needed to forgive.

When I asked God how I could forgive those wrongs that the world around me proclaimed my right to hold in a grudge for all their lives. Often using phrases that begin, “I could forgive anything except _______.”

Didn’t I have a right to my anger? But…???!!

I prayed again.

Immediately I heard, “What have I forgiven of you?”

Wow.

I was flooded with images of my own sins from before I was Baptized in 2013. I was informed by the Holy Spirit that God no longer remembered those sins, as He promised. However, I was being shown that I must forgive, as He had forgiven me.

I needed to forgive all who I felt had wronged me in any way, and I had to ask them for forgiveness for all the ways in which I had wronged them.

That impression began days of crying and repentance. I wrote and sent a letter I was impressed to send. I removed blocks on social media that were placed in haste.

As I struggled, I asked a friend to pray with me. I asked for a prayer, and instead received a Blessing. Within that Priesthood Blessing, once again God told me He knows my name. So many tears. So much Testimony. Oh how I love God.

He is perfecting me. Line by line. Precept by precept. I love the Lord.

May God be with you. In Love and His Holy Lighte. I’ll write more very soon.

A Pioneer of Diversity: Dennis Schleicher

In last week’s Come Follow Me lessons in the New Testament, we read:

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Acts 10:34-35

In my Come Follow Me study group comprised of several people of all different walks of life, I was startled at a question left hanging for more than four days, “Peter came to learn that the blessings of the gospel are meant for people everywhere. The Church today is composed of a variety of people from many different backgrounds. How are Church members blessed by such diversity?”

I can tell you that it has been an incredible blessing to me and my Testimony in Jesus Christ, to have met a pioneer of diversity in our time, Brother Dennis Schleicher, and spoken to him about his love of our mutual church, Heavenly Father, and what it is like to find his church home.

Dennis Schleicher is a gay man. Dennis has known he was gay for most of his life. When he joined a network marketing company and saw members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were his superiors acting in a way that he admired, never judging, always edifying God and the people who worked for them, he asked them what religion they belonged to. They replied they were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This kept happening to Dennis. The people who he admired, who treated him with love and friendship and welcomed him into their lives in an excited manner, were members of The Church and bore their Testimonies gently but constantly in their actions and words.

Dennis would ‘steal’ a Book of Mormon from a Marriott hotel (before realizing that the Marriott chain is the largest distributor of The Book of Mormon, having them in each hotel room for their guests) without really knowing why. As he told me in our interview, he “took the thing and shoved it in [his] bag.”

The supposed thievery was short-lived because he blurted out a confession to 8 missionaries at the airport about stealing the book, then proceeded to take a selfie with the missionaries and the ‘stolen’ Book of Mormon. At the time he had no clue, thinking it was all in fun, but the sparkle in the eyes of those gentle servants of our Heavenly Father show they felt his testimony growing.

Dennis and his Book of Mormon

His network marketing friends would invite him on a trip to go to Palmyra, New York and they suggested he read Al Carraway’s book, More than a Tattooed Mormon, but Dennis was confused and thought, “Why would I want to read about some tattooed woman, I’m afraid of needles!” It would be another year before he would relent. But he did read the stolen Book of Mormon and quickly gained a testimony.

Dennis knows what it is like to be the victim of brutal hate crimes, having been attacked as a teenager, and found empathy within the stories of the history of Joseph Smith Jr. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just as he had found a friend in Jesus Christ through his faith in our Savior. Before too long, he had received the impression from the Holy Spirit to follow his Testimony to the waters of Baptism.

On August 19, 2017, Dennis was Baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His baptism was remarkable for many reasons, but not as miraculous as the next year would be. Dennis would receive First Presidency Approval to attend and receive his Temple blessings on August 11, 2018.

After over a year of hearing the suggestions to read Sister Carraway’s book, Dennis relented and downloaded the audio version and began listening to it. “This woman is telling my story,” were Dennis’s first thoughts. His second, after finishing her book, was to write his own.

Dennis at his Baptism with Brother and Sister Hall, two of his personal missionaries

Dennis subsequently had a conversation with an unnamed General Authority who stated, “Son, we need more LGBT children in the House of the Lord and in this church,” then asked Dennis what his LGBT+ friends say when he tells them he converted to The Church.

Dennis answered, “They say ‘Is he NUTS?! Why would a gay man become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?!”

The General Authority then stated, “There’s the title of your book.” And it was so.

Although Dennis states emphatically that he “did not become a member of The Church to write a book,” I can’t imagine a better medium for this exuberant and joy-filled missionary-minded member to spread his love of Jesus Christ and for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is He Nuts?: Why a Gay Man Would Become a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ comes out on Cedar Fort books in a few weeks and is available for pre-release ordering from Amazon. Dennis is traveling to Utah and Arizona for the book launch and to meet Al Carraway, who also wrote a forward for his book.

During his travels to Colorado, Utah and Arizona, Dennis will be speaking a fireside in Holladay, Utah on August 4th, the week before his book launch party in Provo, Utah on August 13th and then a book signing in Orem, Utah on August 16th. Please follow the links for those events for more information about them.

With all of this excitement surrounding his upcoming book launch, I wanted to ask Dennis what message he wanted to leave other people who were struggling with their part in our diverse church, and this is what is said:

I bear your burden with you. You are still a fellow brother or sister to me. This is my story, my journey, it is what is working for me.

Please don’t judge me – know that I love and care for all of you. We are all loving children of God.

If you’d like to hear more of Dennis’s testimony in his own words, please listen to this podcast in which Richard Ostler interviewed Dennis this spring:

Dennis talks with Richard Ostler about his book

(Photos courtesy of Dennis Schleicher)

Moving Home: A Testimony

It’s been almost two years now, since I left New Hampshire in a van given to me by God and His angels, helping me to make it home to Olympia, Washington after The Car That Ran on Prayers was finally laid to rest in Manchester in late June 2017. I recently reflected on my Testimony about how God guided me home.

The Whisper: A Baby’s on the Way

The Spirit’s whisper was like a hope I dared not have…my daughter and her husband had been trying for years and wanted a baby so much, was the whisper I could feel just hope?

“The Spirit speaks words that we feel…”

Go Home, it said…Go back to where you came from…Go Home to Washington…There’s a baby on the way…you’ll hear around your birthday…Have a home established by October…

I shared the feeling with my daughter and my mother and perhaps a special friend along the way on a Fourth of July birthday…but for the most part I kept it quiet. After all, it was just a hope…right?

grandtwins celebrate their birthday in july

Rayden, a “grandtwin” and Grandma knocking heads

The hope of a grandchild via my daughter was not a substitute for my grandchildren already here. My twin granddaughters were celebrating their 9th birthday in mid-July and I wanted to be there. They had recently moved and the area they now lived in was not only familiar to me, but one I wouldn’t mind living in myself.

The girls were excited to see how much my puppy had grown in the six months since we’d been to the area and they loved the seashells from the coast of Florida, but questions remained about where I would live.

Priorities: Finding a Therapist

When I arrived in Olympia after a long road trip with some very special rest stops in places with names like Nauvoo and Kirtland, then with friends in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado then in Eastern Oregon, I was ready to settle down. Unfortunately, my hometown had been undergoing quite a bit of growth and there was no room at any proverbial Inn. The Pacific Northwest’s occupancy rate for low-income apartments was approaching 98%. There was nothing open.

One of my more memorable stops was a session at the Nauvoo temple ending around sunset

I stayed with a friend, then camped a bit. For a few of the hotter days, the dogs and I got a hotel room…but as I attended church with the Olympia 4th Ward, I prayed for God to tell me where I could find a therapist who was female, specialized in my rare condition AND was a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although that may sound like a tall order, as a person with a severe mental disorder who also believes heavily in the principle of personal revelation, it is imperative that I have a therapist who understands the basic tenants of our church.

God listens to my prayers. A woman about my age or perhaps a couple of years older sat down next to me and I sparked up a conversation. Turned out she was the Stake Relief Society President and was giving a talk that day. I thought to myself, it’s always my luck to sit next to a Stake official…I had no idea who she was and who she knew. After her talk and Sacrament meeting coming to a close, we continued our conversation. For some reason, I shared with her my diagnosis and challenge of finding a therapist with that specialty.

Black Labrador dog looking out of a window of a blue tent into a mossy forest scene
Ruger Bear loved Camping in the Olympic Forest

The Relief Society President shared that her occupation was that of a therapist, and she personally and professionally was aware of a colleague who specialized in my disorder who was, in fact, also female and a church member. I asked for her contact information.

When I first called Dr. S, I was discouraged by the message that she was not taking new clients, but was impressed to leave a message with my details and diagnosis.

The next day, I received a call from her office asking for more information. They were able to schedule me an appointment in the next week. That appointment came quickly and I loved her.

Once Dr. S was on board, I asked her about her Ward…it turned out she belonged to the same one as my granddaughters! Seriously?!

Full Circle

Throughout this time, I kept going by an apartment complex I rented a unit in when I first moved out of my mom’s home as a young adult. I loved the units, having assigned parking spaces, a washer and dryer in each unit and a fireplace in each as well.

The vampire threat was high in Forks

Late in August, smoke from forest fires overwhelmed the area. My asthma was insane. I couldn’t breathe. I heard a whisper from Holy Spirit reminding me of a gift card I was given for my graduation a few months before. It seemed perfect, I just finished my final undergrad class on August 20th, I would take that gift card and follow the Holy Ghost’s suggestion of a short road trip around “The Loop” of the Olympia Peninsula and out of the smoke, before checking out the apartment complex at the beginning of September to see if there had been any notices for one-bedrooms becoming available.

Forks and the Dosewallips river were gorgeous. The dogs ran on the beach and I tried to plakate my anxiety. I shared time with friends on the Hood Canal, reminding me of a time long ago with my grandparents. All too soon, it was time to head back to find out if anyone was moving out of a one-bedroom apartment or if I was going to have to expand my searching.

I followed The Spirit’s promptings to the letter on that morning. I remember stopping for a few minutes and talking with the grandtwin’s other grandma…then telling her it was “time to go.”

When I walked into the office, my hopes were high. I was not disappointed. The next few days were full of anxious interactions, but by September 20th, I was holding a key in my hand.

But wait, I hadn’t even seen the apartment I applied for!

Housekeys, a concept I had not held in my hand in 7.5 years

On the afternoon of September 20th, 2017, exactly seven and a half years TO THE DAY from the day I became homeless, I held a key in my hand to an apartment.

I followed the assistant manager to the building. To my relief, she was going down the short staircase to the bottom apartment instead of up to either of the second or third floor. I wouldn’t know just how much of a blessing that was until a few months later when I became wheelchair-bound (but that’s another story…).

A Birthday Announcement

Now that I was in the northwest, visiting my daughter at her office was possible. Since her office was next to a physician of mine, it became easy and fun for a few months. During one of these visits, my daughter shared a secret that she and her husband would not make public until the week of my October birthday: They were expecting a baby. Finally.

Newborn infant laying in a baby warmer with a diaper and a cord clamp on a white baby blanket with blue and pink stripes
Jaina Anita Ellen, my 4th grandchild

I happened to be in Seattle visiting my brother, with my mom in late May 2018 when we got the call that my daughter was in labor and on the way to the hospital.

Their precious daughter, Jaina, would be born just after midnight, May 22nd, about a year and a few weeks after I first felt her presence in my personal revelation. The knowledge she was on her way allowed me to prepare myself to be a better grandma for all of my grandchildren.

Reflecting

Two years later, I am still blown away by the blessings showered upon me by God. I still listen to His promptings, and there are many. Few promptings are as profound as being rehomed after 7.5 years of homelessness, full-circle into my first home as an adult with the full mental health support I desperately required just in time for the birth of my fourth grandchild.

God is so good.

A mantle full of gratitude

Saturday Night Oxen Herding

My Saturday nights used to be pretty eventful. Sometimes, in fact, back in the LBC (Life Before Church), Saturday nights went on so long, Sunday morning got involved. Sometimes, there was even breakfast.

When my new friends in my new church explained that the only reason for breaking Sabbath was if the “oxen were in the mire,” I took it to heart. I interpreted that as if something that was life or death for a living being, it needed to be taken care of. I know it has been used to do dishes if there were dirty ones and nothing to eat on or other chores that need to be done. 

Do the purple potatoes need to be peeled before Sunday?

Being so new in the Gospel, I didn’t want to break my observance of the Sabbath & my reverence towards my Heavenly Father for little things that could be taken care of Saturday or Monday. There are six other days in the week, if it couldn’t be done by Saturday night, it can be done on Monday…. right?!

Thus birthed my new Saturday night routine…. herding my proverbial oxen away from the mire.

I spend Saturday; most especially Saturday night, making sure that I have taken care of little and big things that could become bigger and more immediately important on Sunday. I also take care of those chores that will eat at me while I would rather be sitting and studying my Scriptures or watching a General Conference talk. Or even sitting in quiet meditation, pondering after a prayer.

She better watch where that ox is headed!

A floor that is begging to be vacuumed or mopped, potatoes needing to be peeled or an item of clothing I would like to wear to church not being clean, are things that will annoy me on Sunday but I have no desire to break my observance of the Sabbath to deal with them. So, I spend Saturday doing those things that may have been annoying me since Thursday; but will definitely put me over the edge of annoyance on Sunday if not taken care of on Saturday. You know, that q-tip that fell on the floor, but you didn’t want to bend over to pick up when it happened? Those things. 

Now that I’ve been in the Gospel for six years, I admit there are times that I become lazy and I notice it on Sunday. I originally wrote this post in the Spring of 2014, when I was freshly Baptized; I think The Lord knew I needed a reminder.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland addressed the concept of herding one’s oxen in his General Conference talk this last spring in his talk, “Behold, The Lamb of God,” wherein he admonished us to hold the Sabbath reverently. Elder Holland excused parents with arms full of fussy babies, then reminded us, “an occasional tardiness is understandable, but if the ox is in the mire every Sunday, then we strongly recommend that you sell the ox or fill the mire.”

I agree with Elder Holland, and am taking his advice about herding my oxen before they run into the mire, to heart. I now have an excellent helper in that task with my new caregiver, a recent convert herself.

If I Follow Him, I will always have busy Saturdays. My oxen and I have a standing date. Kinda like the one I have with my Heavenly Father and Lord and Savior with the Holy Spirit on Sundays.

Have a Blessed Sabbath!

Following Him

When 2019 began, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began using a new tool for their scripture studies, a book with the title Come Follow Me.

A simple notebook-sized paperback book divided into weekly sections with room to write notes and guidance and prompts to study The New Testament, the section of the Scriptures assigned to members for 2019 study.

Sprinkled heavily throughout this book is artwork of a quality that made me want to hang the book on the wall! I was pleasantly surprised to see the artwork could be printed out for Family Home Evening personal use and purchased on the church’s store for formal display outside of lessons!

As a single disabled woman who lives alone with her dogs, I probably have a different schedule than most people. If I pull out my Come Follow Me book with my Bible in the middle of the day when it is nice and quiet, I am easily directed to my area of study. Interruptions happen, and using the book it is easy to return to my place after.

The paperback is not the only version available, Come Follow Me is also available digitally on the Gospel Library app as well as on The Church’s website.

As a disabled person, it is never easy for me to attend church. There are times that the tasks that I would need to complete to go into the building are too much for me physically or mentally. It has been during these times when I have appreciated the Come Follow Me program the most. The respect that our Prophet has for the members of our church with this program feels wonderful. I am comforted to have an outlined path of study even for those days I’m not able to make it to classes.

As a convert who often wishes I had been a member of The Church during my high school years so I would have had an opportunity to attend seminary, the Come Follow Me program gives me a bit more of guidance in my studies that I have yearned for.

I look forward to following Him more and seeing how this Come Follow Me program develops!