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.

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?

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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

Mother, Another Name for Creator

When our Prophet talks about us “all being mothers,” what I feel him saying is that we are all creators.

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From Mother’s Milk by ~Rachel Hunt Steenblik

In her book of poetry, Mother’s Milk, Rachel Hunt Steenblik opens up her heart and her yearning for a Mother in Heaven, a feeling many of us have felt. As a woman who has run home to her own earthly mother more times than I can count, the yearning for an acknowledgment of our Eternal Mother is something that I feel more intensely than I usually admit.IMG_20170430_100659.jpg

I have belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for six years coming up next month. During this time, no matter what Ward or Branch I have attended, each and every year I have joined in the singing the one hymn in the hymnal that recognizes our Mother in Heaven every year on Mother’s Day.

In 1845, Eliza R. Snow (Relief Society President 1867-1887) wrote the hymn, “O My Father,” penning the most well-known reference to Mother God.  Written only months after Prophet Jospeph Smith Jr.’s death, it has been speculated that the Prophet may have taught of a Mother in Heaven either implicitly or to limited audiences.20171105_123208_HDR.jpg

It doesn’t surprise me that the hymn we sing on Mother’s Day or the book of poetry worshiping our Almighty Mother were written by mothers. It also didn’t surprise me to listen to Sheri Dew say “Aren’t We All Mothers,” or President Nelson in his address to the October 2018 General Conference profess that he became a doctor, “Because I could not choose to be a mother.”

President Nelson went on to say last October, ” Every woman is a mother by virtue of her eternal divine destiny.”

When I listen to childless women and their frustration with some of these quotes and standpoints, I contemplate if they were to substitute the word creator for mother if there would still be offense taken?

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The Cullens, one of my ancestral families

Our society, and in particular some of our cultures, tend to pass judgment on what types of parents we are, how many children we produce and how we choose to raise them. How we judge one another trickles down into how we feel about ourselves. When we internalize external judgments, we diminish our own divinity.

Our role as creators is divine. Our Mother in Heaven is just as important as our Father in Heaven.

Elder Erastus Snow stated, “There can be no God except that he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way,” a statement, according to the Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven, that has been reaffirmed by several General Authorities.

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Are not we all mothers? We ARE all creators. Whether we choose to partner with our Heavenly Parents and create human bodies to be populated with souls to come to earth or we partner with them to create technology, books, music or other artwork or perhaps we create a cure for a previously incurable disease; we are ALL creators. We are ALL mothers.

Thank you, Mother and Father, for the gift of creation…for the gift of motherhood.

What the Mother Taught Me
Creation is
more than
procreation.
It is snow, birds,
trees, moon,
and song.
~Rachel Hunt Steenblik

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Five Years In The Church

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Five years ago I made one of the most significant decisions of my life. Last year on the anniversary, I not only wrote about making the resolution to be Baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but I also made a video about my choice while I was waiting for an evening session at the Columbia, South Carolina Temple.

Today finds me a member of the same Ward as my granddaughters and their other grandma. We “sister grandmas” bookend the girls in Sacrament service every Sunday we can, and I have to admit that I look forward to Sundays every day of the week and have ever since I made the decision to be Baptized. Now I even get grandkid cuddles as a bonus! The opportunity to share my faith and our history with these children

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is a logical extension of my new calling as a “Temple and Family History Consultant.”

This month one of the two Sister Missionaries who taught me returned to Washington. I have had several chances to visit with the Sister formerly known as Johnson and meet her family since her mission ended. During this short visit, I even had the opportunity to meet her daughter!

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Sister Frandson and I finally had the opportunity to go through the Logan Temple together last year when I was on my trip home from the east coast. I previously had a chance to meet her family as well. I love both my Sister Missionaries families as much as I love the sisters themselves.

One sister is missing. On this occasion, I have found Sister Ashley Lloyd on my mind more than ever. A beautiful young lady with the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen, I can’t hear the words “I’m so grateful” without remembering her bare her testimony to me during my lessons.

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Sisters Johnson and Lloyd

I am so grateful for all three of the sister missionaries who taught me the Gospel of Jesus Christ five years ago. They helped me change my life for the better. I love catching up with them on social media, and I try to always keep them and their families in my prayers….especially the one who I’ve lost touch with. I know God has all the hairs on our heads numbered. He knows exactly where she is and what she is doing and how His blessings can help. It is for those blessings I pray.

My life is different than it has ever been. I look to God first. I’m not perfect, and I know it, but I have an opportunity to repent and ask God for forgiveness when I know I have done wrong and I learn how to do better. I am so grateful for this new life and the knowledge of the God who provided it and the Savior who rescued me.

Flirting to Convert?

I’ve been divorced for a year now. During that time, I have not dated at all. I have not entertained the advances from any man. It’s been nice to be single, I enjoy working on the issues that I have and would like to get to a more stable point in my recovery (from past relationships and childhood trauma) before becoming involved in another relationship. All of that being said, my “plans” were dealt a bit of a perspective blow this week when a very attractive man started talking to me with grand intentions.

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Then I began to ponder: What about my dreams of a “Temple Marriage?” What about Eternity? I KNOW I’m not only getting involved for time when I do marry again. What? I’m already talking about being married again? Yes. Why else would I even date? I believe in chastity before marriage, and I do want to be joined with a partner…eventually. But what about dating a non-Mormon? And what do I feel about these General Conference talks…and even the CONCEPT of “flirting to convert?”

WHY would anyone attempt to change someone else’s heart? What about agency? What about the 11th Article of Faith?

Personally, I had never even considered attempting to persuade another person to change their heart about Heavenly Father and the Gospel of Christ until I met a man who exemplified the teachings and who was not a member. I had really not honestly considered dating anyone who isn’t. I respect the agency of my future-husband and really don’t want to influence that unduly.

I thought back to the talk I had heard in April by Elder Joaquin E. Costa, To the Friends and Investigators of the Church. In this General Conference talk in April 2017, Elder Costa described his (now wife) rejecting his advances and basing her rejection of him on her desire to be an Eternal Family:

She spoke of her goals—of marrying only someone who could take her to the temple, of having an eternal family—and she declined my offer. I wanted to continue the relationship, so I agreed to listen to the missionaries. Is this a good reason to meet with the missionaries? Well, it was for me.

I’m happy that Elder Costa and his wife were able to become a “forever family” together. I’m happy he felt that was his path. But I am uncertain if it is mine to influence another’s faith. I do want to be an Eternal Family. My most fond dreams are in a Temple of God, being sealed to a man who holds The Priesthood.

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I LOVE God, I LOVE Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the Gift of the Holy Spirit. I’m thankful for the blessings that Heavenly Father brings into my life daily.

I know I must be patient. For now, I will continue to keep my covenants and work on my own issues. I will persevere in my rehabilitation efforts and in becoming the person I want “him” to be with eternally. If “he” is the one, he will understand my dreams. Those people who love me will respect my most fond desires and wishes and will help God make them come true.

Update: For anyone keeping track, this lead to my faith being wielded back at me as a dull knife he named “fairy tale.”

No longer allowing myself to be in a relationship where someone believes it is okay to hurt me, it was called off but we remain friends.

Guest Post: The Moments I Knew

A few days ago a fellow writer noticed me sharing “Experimenting on His Words” in a Facebook group and asked if I would be open to sharing a guest post. I thought it was a fabulous idea, and we agreed to exchange posts. Watch for my Testimony on his blog soon as well!  Enjoy “The Moments I Knew” from Daniel Christensen:

Church members can often point to a singular experience when they “knew” it was true. Maybe it was the knowledge that God existed, or knowing that the Book of Mormon was true, or that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

I never had that experience. I’ve actually had thousands of them.

We as humans are good at a few things and horrible at others. One thing that we reeeeally need to work on is remembering. God understands this better than anyone, and especially knows this of me. In moments of weakness, I forget about the moments that I “know” the truth, yet choose to do the opposite. It’s really frustrating.wp-1509068224209..jpg

I imagine this is true of everyone. That’s why I think we are given so many reminders. I’ll tell you of my most recent reminder. I listened to Tad Callister’s talk about the Book of Mormon and it hit me particularly hard. He asked logical questions about the origins of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s involvement. I normally am a little apprehensive about trying to “prove” certain things within the gospel because I had always felt that it was not a logical matter, but a spiritual one. I realized, however, that some people need that, and at certain times in my life, I’ve needed a logic to back up the spiritual claims made as well.

It’s not like I’m constantly asking myself, “Is the Book of Mormon True?”, but it is nice to have some assurances once in awhile. As I was reading, I came across an oft-quoted passage, 1 Nephi 3:7, which says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

PicsArt_10-03-01.11.25.jpgI’ve known this scripture since I was a little kid, but this time I focused on the “accomplish” part. I don’t recall the other authors in the Book of Mormon using that phrase-ology. So I went hunting, and sure enough, Nephi uses this exact phrase another 4 times. The other 418 pages of the Book of Mormon show no other such reference. Zero. Would Joseph Smith have been able to keep that phrase just within first and second Nephi and never use anything similar in the rest of the Book? To me, the answer was a resounding ‘No”, and it was just the latest moment that I “knew” the Book of Mormon was true.

wp-1509068895564..jpgThese experiences can happen quite frequently if we are able to recognize them. They add just one more time in our lives that we can look back on and remember, that at that moment, we “knew”.

img_1474Written by Daniel Christensen

Experimenting on His Words

Personal Revelation has been an integral part of my conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the beginning.  Having indefinite “feelings” about things in my and my children’s lives is not new for me…or for them. Knowing where those feelings come from, is.

Since my pre-Baptism lessons four and a half years ago, I have been learning about The Holy Spirit, or The Holy Ghost. I LOVE the Holy Spirit. He is the third part of the Godhead, the only part of the three that does not have a body of His own, He resides in US!IMG_20170905_190814

It is through The Holy Spirit that we feel comfort, a confirmation of truth of the Gospel. IF we are listening closely, He will help guide us in our choices throughout our lives. When we receive revelation about our lives, it is through The Holy Spirit.

I LOVE personal revelation. The fact that our Heavenly Father cares so much about each and every one of us that He WANTS to communicate with us, to HELP us to make important decisions and prepare for important events. He knows each of our names, has numbered each of the hairs on each of our heads, and wants us to succeed in those things we desire. He is our Father and communicates with us as often as we will listen.

Many times in my life I have not listened well. I’m sure my earthly parents were overheard saying just that during much of my youth. But, in this respect, I mean not listening to my Heavenly Father very well.

When I did learn to pray, study my scriptures and ponder to listen, I found myself craving silence. That time when just between Heavenly Father and myself when that still small voice would speak to my heart. Little hints, here and there, but enough to let me know if I was on the right track. Those little words when I needed to keep me going. Those little things that Heavenly Father wanted me to know, not meant for anyone else.

IMG_20171013_143523109.jpgEach and every time that I acted on the information received in personal revelation, I experimented on the Word of God.  When the information proved correct, and my actions were those I needed to do to prepare for that future, my faith was strengthened. Each and every time this happens.

Like everyone else with a strong testimony, at times I forget or lessen the importance of these small and large events. Each time personal revelation reveals future events and actions I should take, I am taken aback. I don’t reveal the details to many, but those who have shared the knowledge have had their testimonies strengthened as well. I need to keep a better record in my journals of these events.

As I look around this apartment that God impressed me to apply for, I smile when I remember a phone call I received this week. Only God could know what I needed to do to get into this place. Only He could move the mountains that stood between me and this home. Only He could tell me exactly what to do and when. But I had to listen. I am glad that I was listening this time.PicsArt_07-26-06.10.35

One of the most precious gifts we can receive is that of the Holy Spirit. It is through our relationship with this part of the Godhead that can help lead us to a much more revealed life.