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

I know I’m Irish…

…but every St. Patrick’s Day I wonder from who and where in Ireland.
My first estimate from my Ancestry DNA test

When my daughter and her husband bought me a DNA test for my birthday a few years ago, I was thrilled to confirm that I was almost as Irish as an old boyfriend had though (he said I looked a lot like one of his relatives, still in Ireland). That made me happy.

The combination of my (once) dark hair and blue eyes with red-headed glow-in-the-dark skin, are some of my most striking features. It was easy to fall into the “goth” fashion during my teenage years and young adulthood.
I have loved my “Irishness”ever since I first learned of my heritage, but I had no idea where in Ireland my family originated.

One of my paternal great-grandfather’s names is “Foley,” which seems like a simple link to my Irish blood, right? Not so much. I have been unable to find any records of the original Mr. Foley who immigrated to the United States. Family rumor says that I have him and his (wife?) to thank for my native blood. Mr. Foley reportedly married a woman of Aboriginal American descent, who belonged to the Cheyenne Nation.

My furthest ancestor on the Foley line who I am able to identify is Pleasant Foley, my second-great-grandfather on my father’s mother’s father’s side. If his father came from Ireland as rumored, he would be one of three of my third great-grandparents to come from the emerald isle.

Sarah Thornhill, my daughter of Henry and Rebecca

Sarah Thornhill, my third great-grandmother, also on my father’s side, but this time on his father’s side, was born in Ireland in 1828. Many sources confirm that fact. I have been yet unable to find where in Ireland she was born, but her parents left Ireland after some of their children were born and settled in England. Her father, Henry Thornhill, was born in County Fermanagh in Ireland, but is laid to rest in Manchester, England (not too far from where a Facebook friend of mine lives!)

Although I’ve been unable to find a surname for Sarah Thornhill’s mother, “Rebecca Thornhill” was born in 1808 in Londonderry, Ireland. Again, she is laid to rest in their adopted Manchester.

Margaret Thornhill Walsh (my great-grandmother) and her sister.

 

Sarah Thornhill immigrated to Canada. Her death record indicates that she died at age 50, on 15 April 1878, six years after her husband, John Walsh passed away. I found her cause of death oddly familiar: “Constipation of the bowels.” Many things seem to have been inherited from my Irish ancestors…

John Walsh, Sarah’s husband, was born in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland in 1812. His father was possibly Tom Walsh (with names like “John” and “Tom” without personal accounts, it is difficult to discern if it is actually my ancestor), and John’s mother was most likely Ellin Muleahy, both who lived all of their lives in Ireland.

John and Sarah (Thornhill) Walsh made their home in York in Ontario Canada and both passed away in their 50s. Even though their deaths were over a century ago, as a 52-year-old woman, it causes me to reflect.

The other side of my father’s father’s Irish line are the Cullens. Yes, I was more than mildly amused when this ancestral surname was co-opted by Twilight’s writer as the vampire clan’s chosen surname.

Thomas Cullen, born between 1802-1805 in Strokestown, County Roscommon, Ireland was possibly the son of Patrick Cullen (1783-1865) and Bridgide Hill or McGinn. Again, some of the details have been difficult to nail down. But what seems clear is that County Roscommon can be added to the counties from which I descend. Thomas is my fourth great-grandfather.

My fourth great-grandmother, Thomas’s wife, was Jane Bentley (1805-1881) from County Longford. Her parents were Christopher Bentley and Frances Cox.


Jane Bentley (1805-1881), my fourth Great-Grandmother

My mother’s line has been a part of the building up of the United States of America since the early 1600s, so attempting to find her Irish lines was a bit more difficult. However, I was able to find a few who were born in Ireland in the 1700s.

Here is an interesting fact: My father’s Irish lines emigrated to the American Continent in the 1800s, and my Irish lines on Ancestry seem (30%) stable, but those parts that have changed (both my estimate and my mother’s Ancestry DNA estimate changed after our tests), seem to be from the Irish lines that emigrated in the 1700s. Ancestry is now calling those lines “English,” but they are not.

Isaac Highley was (most likely) born to Thomas Highley and Margaret in Ireland in 1772. He is my 5th great-grandfather on my mother’s mother’s side. The Highleys married into the Parrs married into the Savage line on my mother’s line.

When Sara Christena Parr (my great-grandmother) married William Duncan Savage, she added more Irish into my mother’s line. William Duncan’s great-grandfather, William, my fourth great-grandfather, was born in Ireland in 1797.

William Savage and his wife Harriet Eisnaugle, married and raised their family with much of my Irish ancestors in the Ohio valley before the family moved to Wisconsin.

Ancestry.com updated both mine and my mom’s DNA and our Irish turned English!

Although my mother’s Irish line has now been replaced by a generic term on Ancestry.com, this is one day that I would like to pick out those particular ancestors of hers that were born in Ireland and chose America to start over. William Savage and Isaac Highley chose a different life for their families and for generations to come.

As someone who has known that her heritage included Irish from the time she could look in a mirror, it is WONDERFUL to have County names to associate my heritage with. I now understand that I not only come from Ireland, but I come from County Roscommon, County Longford, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry and Birr in County Offaly.

Somehow, knowing all of this means a little more on this St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: This article was simultaneously published on MaggieSlighte.com by the author

The Prophet Comes to Safeco Field

PicsArt_09-16-06.02.01.jpgPeering down, I could barely see President Nelson standing at the podium in the field usually reserved for nine innings of one of my least favorite games. This was the first time I had been at Safeco Field for any reason. I switched my gaze up to the “Jumbotron” where the Prophet of God’s face was as clear as day. His voice not only echoed due to the less than optimal acoustics in Safeco Field, but it reverberated in my chest. I felt a confirming witness of his words comfort me and bless me as he spoke. I tried to quickly scribble down every word in the new composition book I brought for the event but failed miserably. I kept getting distracted by the power that filled the stadium: Priesthood Power. The Power of a God who seemed to fill the stadium with His love.IMG_20180211_121332358

In the year I have been a member of the Olympia Second Ward, I have gained many friends. I was so happy that I could catch a ride with some of them who shared a few of my physical challenges. The traffic was a little heavy through Tacoma, but we pressed north. When we took our exit, we noticed cars filled with other members heading in the same direction. Soon we found the parking garage and headed to a disabled spot on the roof.

After a relatively short line (the lines below us were back and forth and around blocks), we went through the metal detectors and then over a sky bridge. The ushers directed us to an elevator where we walked (all four of us with canes), then stood in line to go down to the 100 level. When we made it to the 100 level, an usher attempted to find seating for four disabled members but decided that our needs could be met better in one of the suites upstairs. We were given a pass for a suite, then directed back to the elevator and back up to the suite level.preview.jpg

The walk around the stadium to an open suite was excruciating but worth it. The four of us in our van were each disabled. Three with broken backs. The freedom to have a suite to sit in several soft chairs, then to be able to walk around in a private area all while not missing one word of the Prophet’s talk was a true gift from God to four disabled Latter-day Saints.  It was a gift that set the tone for the evening.

I was relaxing and putting my feet up while going through some of the photos I had already taken of the suite and the stadium, when we heard members that were sitting in the suite’s seating exclaim, “That’s you!” They were referring to an Instagram post I had made that was being displayed on a Jumbotron screen that I couldn’t see from my vantage point. I smiled at the camaraderie the post caused both in our suite with the strangers become a suite family and the text I received from other Ward members who had seen it. I blushed.20180915_192325.jpg

After I missed being embarrassed on the Jumbotron (for a writer with a heavy social media presence, I am remarkably shy in some situations), I decided to change my seating to the combination desk/bar seating that the suite windows open up to. I could see the Jumbotron and the field filling up with Latter-day Saints from around the northwest. As the time neared, even the outfield seats began filling up. The overwhelming feeling of love in the stadium was felt by more than just the members. Workers who were in and out of the suites began to comment that we were not their normal crowd.

President Eyring began the talks after an introduction of hymns and prayer with statements about the character of God and His Prophets, “God is omniscient and omnipotent…Prophets give us revelation to assist us in our daily life.”

He asked us to seek and receive personal revelation to confirm the words of Prophets who receive direction in our lives. He expressed that we should NOT blindly follow what the prophet invites us to do. It is up to each one of us to confirm that the President of the Church is leading us all in the right direction.preview-7.jpg

Following President Eyring’s talk, Sister Wendy Nelson surprised the four of us with her insight into the private life of a Prophet of God. Never before could I have found myself picturing President Nelson in his bedroom closet writing revelation for us all on a yellow-lined pad of paper after his wife was called out of the bedroom by God. I never could have imagined that a Prophet’s wife would be awoken and told (by the Holy Spirit) to leave her own bedroom in the middle of the night so that her husband could in essence, ‘speak’ or really, get spoken to, by God.

Sister Wendy Nelson’s testimony of her relationship with her husband, our Prophet and the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a stirring insight into their personal lives. One I never imagined having. Sister Nelson’s witness that President Nelson appears to grow much younger than his 94 years was confirmed by each person watching his talk which was next.

preview-5.jpgPresident Nelson opened with remarks about the fact it was his first time to speak at a baseball stadium, and then proceeded to share a story about his family whitewater rafting. In that experience, President Nelson learned it was important to hold tight to the raft, just as it is important for each of us to hold tight in our lives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He reiterated his witness that reading the Book of Mormon every day immunizes us against the evils of the day and allows us to draw closer to the Lord.

President Nelson invited each person who is not on the path to return and not to allow the temptations of the world distract from the real reason we are on Earth.

“The Lord uses the unlikely to do the impossible,” was one of the lessons President Nelson stated he had learned in life. He followed and preceded this statement with his experiences after having been given the prophetic task of opening Eastern Europe to the preaching of the Gospel. He stated, “The Lord likes effort, He blesses our best efforts.”preview-4.jpg

The page following these notes in my composition book selected for this event is filled with a personal revelation written while President Nelson was finishing this portion of his talk. My testimony of the lesson, “The Lord uses the unlikely to do the impossible” is strong.

One of the most significant changes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the mantle of Prophet fell on President Nelson has been the evolution of “Home and Visiting Teachers” to “Ministering.” The Prophet spoke about the life lesson he had learned about focusing on others as a part of the ministering lessons to us all.

“We long to build bridges of cooperation rather than walls of segregation,” President Nelson seemed to speak to the hearts of the Pacific Northwest audience, before closing with a blessing for us all.

If any in the audience doubted Sister Wendy Nelson’s allegation that he was growing younger, the veritable leap President Nelson performed out of his seat, interrupting the closing hymn’s prelude, and back to the podium to correct the number in attendance did much to assuage it.20180915_175423-PANO.jpg

The corrected number was 49,089. It was a record for a non-sports event in Safeco Field.

As a member who lives in an area that has been characterized as the “least religious in America,” I was very very happy to see that many of my Latter-day family turn out. The power of the Priesthood was palpable and heartwarming.

God was there.

2956468426549

 

 

 

 

Gratitude

How does one say “thank you” for a life that has been turned around? How does one say it for all the “things” in life that have come about and all the more that have changed for the best. More, how does one show gratitude felt towards their fellow person for all their help? I have struggled through these questions and more for the past year.

One year ago, A man I trusted and loved enough to marry turned out to be another manipulator. I was devastated. However the same conditions that made it difficult to support myself on my own after my first divorce were still very present. In fact, those conditions were worsened by the lies my ex-husband told. Even though the fifth-wheel we lived in had been presented to me as a birthday gift, he had put it into his mother’s name. The only thing I was to be awarded in the divorce was the little broken-down 1983 Volvo he magnanimously gave to me to make sure I stayed away from Arizona where he had moved in with another female and started calling her “his wife” to all outsiders.

It took me quite a while to recognize the absence of some things as a gift. The absence of the now ex and the fifth wheel is not only a gift, but a relief given by God. He knew. He knew I was wrong to follow my relationship addiction and marry someone who was quite bad for my physical and mental health…but God waited for me to realize that. He gave me wonderful, supportive people around me and gave me respite in His house, the Snowflake Temple while I figured it out.

Snowflake, Arizona Temple
Snowflake, Arizona Temple

The Volvo was an incredible gift. It had been foretold in a Priesthood Blessing, then gifted to my exhusband by a friend who was supportive in Keith “getting me out of town for good.” In my hands, it became “The Car that Ran on Prayer,” a story I lived then wrote soon to be a full-length book.

The car just strengthened my testimony of God. Anytime it stopped working, it meant there were wonderful, faithful people who I was intended to meet. One of them was a Bishop who had to finally tell me she was dead. The Car that Ran on Prayer also died on prayer and was miraculously replaced by a minivan that also runs on prayer. I will be forever grateful to the wonderful members of Manchester, New Hampshire for all of their help in making that miraculous replacement happen.

IMG_20170922_145716Only five short days ago I signed my first apartment lease since 1992. It was my first real home in the seven years since my first divorce. Even though my second ex-husband and I were living in a fifth wheel off-grid, I was to find out from the agency that was assisting me with my deposit and first month’s prorated rent, that I had been officially homeless for seven years. I was tired of living so hard.

Unless you have been without shelter to call your own, I don’t believe anyone understands just how difficult and wearing it can be to “sleep rough” or to just not have a place to call your own. It doesn’t only mean sleeping in your vehicle, on a friend’s couch or in a cardboard box. It also means that you have no place to go in the daytime. My days were filled with libraries, dog parks and church parking lots, when I could get there.  While traveling, I was blessed to see the sights almost as if I was a tourist, taking in God’s wonders across the country. I was even blessed to have the opportunity to visit a few temples. When the car stopped starting, I was stuck where my vehicle was parked. 20170421_104140

I grew to be very thankful that my Volvo had broken down on Easter day in a church parking lot in Manchester, New Hampshire. It was at the only church building I had ever attended with a Mission Office inside of it. The building was open from 9-5 on weekdays, enabling me to schedule bathroom use.

Members who knew I was stuck helped with meals, care packages and even a battery-operated fan! I ended up even gaining a little weight from all the blessed donations of food, including a couple of hot meals brought to my car when they were still steaming. I do not have the illusion that it would have happened for many others, including those not of my gender. I KNOW I was blessed abundantly that God took very good care of me through His faithful servants.

Being stuck in a church parking lot proved inspirational for me. I kept getting the impression that I needed to “earn my keep” since I was in the parking lot of the building that housed the Manchester Mission, I should do my best to be a “member missionary.” Even as depression overtook me, I did my best to share inspiring talks that helped me keep my head above water.

PicsArt_06-08-11.11.42I started again to share my scripture studies and General Conference talks I listened to combined with photos I took around the Manchester building, with many LDS groups. I was rewarded with “Amens” and a large viewing audience. It helped relieve my feelings of “taking advantage” as that was never my intention. I did my best to be my on my best behavior while in God’s close care.

When I returned to Washington state, I struggled again. Homeless in my own hometown. All of my friends who had helped me out so much the previous year were helping others now. I waited patiently, running my dogs in the Stake Center’s field and prayerfully studying scriptures. I started attending Sacrament service with my granddaughters, longing to be a part of their Ward. I went on a camping trip when it got too hot for my dogs in the van. We hid from the heat in the shelter of the beautiful fir trees in God’s forests in western Washington. IMG_20170905_190523

Then it happened: I got a feeling. One more of those still, soft but firm feelings. I would have to wait until the notices were in by former tenants to the apartment offices in September, but I should return to the first complex I lived in when I moved away from home.

I waited patiently. Deciding to not only join friends for a Labor Day camping trip, but also go “around the loop” of the Olympic Peninsula, a beautiful trip I had not been on since I was a child. I used a Visa card given to me for my graduation from college for gas and I enjoyed a gorgeous camping trip as I awaited my time to try again at the apartment complex.

Just as the Holy Spirit implied, as I walked into the office of the complex I was informed that someone had ‘just” given notice. Then began the application process. Then, five days ago, I was handed keys as I signed the first apartment lease I have signed in decades. My very FIRST place without any other humans. My first home, alone.

IMG_20170922_150204As I looked around at the few camp chairs and sleeping bag on the floor, it was very apparent I needed to replace furniture long forgotten now in the custody of ex-husbands. But with funds so tight that my rent takes up 5/6 of my disability pension, how to do that was the question.

Then I put out a request to both the “Buy Nothing” Facebook group I belong to as well as the Relief Society Sisters of my new Ward. The response was OVERWHELMING. I was honest and upfront about the fact I was moving into my own place after an extended time being homeless. I was overwhelmed with donations.

As I sit this first Sabbath morning surrounded by donated furniture, dishes, pans, towels and the most luxurious sheet set I could have ever imagined, my eyes fill with tears. I KNOW that my Father in Heaven watches over me daily. I know that it is through Him that this is all possible. My gratitude towards my gracious Father in Heaven is overwhelming in tears right now. My gratitude towards my fellow humans is also more full than I could imagine. IMG_20170518_094000

For all the words God has provided me to say “Thank YOU” to everyone who has helped me, or another of their fellow humans, I have none that feel as full as “gratitude.” That is what I feel: An OVERWHELMING feeling of gratitude. That is what I would like to share. I can’t thank all of God’s helpers, no matter their religion or lack thereof, enough. I can only do my best to love my fellow human, and to always try to “pay it forward.”

I hope all of your lives are full of the white light of The Holy Spirit. I leave this testimony with you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Two Ceremonies

As I was standing in the staging area outside of the SNHU Arena, I recalled another ceremony exactly 2 years prior to the graduation ceremony I was about to participate in: I received my Endowments at the Seattle Temple on May 13, 2014.

cropped-img_20130803_1422391.jpg

The trials put in my place before I could get to that point or this, where possibly more than another could bare, but God knows my strengths and He added to them with an abundant amount of support. In a blog piece on MaggieSlighte.com, I expounded on the trials that lead to my graduation ceremony.

I also want to reflect on the Covenants that are more sacred to me than any Temporal Bachelor’s degree. Those Covenants I made exactly two years to the day before my graduation ceremony.

Twin Falls Idaho Temple
Twin Falls Idaho Temple

From the moment I saw a Temple for the first time, I felt God within it. I felt a reverence for the building that I could feel in Idaho Falls in 2011. Knowing those who were not members (I didn’t know about the Recommend process at the time) could not enter, I was content to photograph it and say a brief prayer thanking God for the privilege of accidentally coming across the site and feeling His presence there.

On my journey across the United States, whenever I felt doubts or fears or just needed to thank Him for His graciousness and guidance, I was privileged to take in a session at a local temple.

wpid-wp-1441550340638.jpg

In Snowflake, Arizona, a dear friend suggested I take in a session the day before my divorce hearing. It was just the thing I needed.

I calmed and remembered the promises I made to my Heavenly Father about my own behavior. I asked His forgiveness for my behavior with my soon-to-be ex-husband.

I was brokenhearted, but I felt the Comforter surround me as I begged for Heavenly Father’s forgiveness in the Celestial Room. The next day I was able to maintain my composure during a divorce hearing.

I received guidance from the Holy Ghost to quickly get out of the small town where the hearing was held, and proceeded quickly to Texas. The Houston Temple was beautiful,

wp-1492968409929.jpg

and I took the opportunity to take in an early morning session prior to leaving Texas to head to Florida for a job I wasn’t quite certain about. Again, the Comforter was near and calmed my fears while I performed the ordinance work for my ancestor.

In Florida, near Ft. Lauderdale on the way back from The Keys, I was forced to seek medical attention at The Cleveland Clinic when a fierce asthma attack took my breath away. They hospitalized me for 36 hours for a “rule-out myocardial infarction” (heart attack). When I was given a clean bill of health (besides the asthma) the next thing I did was to visit the Ft. Lauderdale Temple that was located right around the corner from the hospital.

I thanked my Heavenly Father for the Grace and comfort I felt during and after the stressful experience at the hospital. Then my friend Jacob and I were given the opportunity to meet and help out a few patrons with photos after my session.

20170323_132210_hdr-1.jpg.jpg

I felt impressed to travel inland in South Carolina in search of information about my ancestors born in that area. I was rewarded with a visit at the Columbia, South Carolina Temple on the occasion of the anniversary of my Baptism. There I was given the opportunity to attend a session as well as revisiting the Font for some of my ancestors.

I was impressed in Columbia to continue my journey into North Carolina in search of my mother’s family. I was richly rewarded in Rowan County with the original marriage bond from my 4th great-grandparents on microfiche.

The most startling part of that was the fact that Solomon Richardson, my 4th great-grandfather, signed with an ‘x” indicating that he was, in fact, illiterate.

I had always assumed that all of my family was literate, having come from a family full of highly intelligent people.

This discovery increased the significance of my graduation from Southern New Hampshire University on THIS May 13th.

PicsArt_04-06-12.27.49(1)

South Carolina was the last Temple I had visited for a few months, but when the day of my Endowments coincided with the date of my graduation, I felt a subtle “nod” from my Heavenly Father.

In my head I could hear the Covenants I made on that day, and thanked Him for the opportunity not only to make them, but to have the ability to attend the Temples as I traveled and allowed Him to have a clearer voice to guide me.

I KNOW I would not have had the communication with Heavenly Father to hear His initial suggestion to go back to school if I had not first made Covenants in the Temple, nor would I have found the fortitude to continue my education in the face of adversity without the regular visits to the Snowflake Temple that my dear friends made possible on a weekly basis.

I KNOW I could not have participated in the second ceremony, my graduation, if I had not participated completely in the first ceremony, my Temple Endowment.

The End of the Journey

These last few days, I began to retrace my steps. It has been two weeks since I had reached my destination. On the Sunday after I had reached New Hampshire, “The Car that Ran on Prayers”, stopped. It stopped starting.  I had a bad feeling about what seemed to be a “minor” fuel-flow issue. The Bishop in the area who I called when it initially stopped on Saturday (I was able to keep it running after the sun went down, by “double peddling it” and got it to church the next day). After finding out that the spark pIMG_20170421_153144_070lug wires were ORIGINAL from 1983, I had a feeling that the fuel filter might also be original. He had agreed and purchased a filter for me, but didn’t find himself with the time to replace it once it’s location was discovered. It was soon towed to a shop, where it has remained for over a week while they have been doing anything and everything they can to figure out what is the problem, while the problems seem to multiply.

Today is my third Sunday in this New Hampshire, Testimony Sunday. Boy, do I have a testimony. But can I put it into words? That small, still voice telling me to just go the shortest way to New Hampshire. Don’t take the freeway, keep it under 60 mph. That small still voice that guided me and comforted me when the job I thought I had didn’t pay and I was left to shoulder the expenses of the trip on my own. The God that I, and so many friends prayed to on my and the car’s behalf. It was not only the car that ran on prayers, but my mind and body as well. Jesus was, indeed, my co-pilot. He guided me wherever I traveled. He told me, through the Spirit, which way to turn. On those occasions when I took the wrong turn, He would force my steering wheel. One of those times was in Kernersville, North Carolina, when the car would not go past a certain milepost, no matter how many times I tried.

It was in Kernersville where a tune-up and a few other minor repairs were performed, and I met a Bishop who called himself “Charlie.” Bishop Charlie is a man who is young enough to be my son, but as I poured out my tales of woe to him, he listened with the ears of a father. He used the Priesthood in a caring manner to comfort me with a blessing. Bishop Charlie also gave me the gift of meeting a woman who was serving our Heavenly Father in the midst of her own struggles. The wonderful Relief Society President of their ward had been stricken with that awful “c word.” An orange bracelet on my arm still reminds me to keep that Sister in my prayers.

It was in Kernersville where I followed many impressions, including one to go into the chapel early. I routinely like to be at the church that I am attending, early, but I tend to “hang out” in the foyer for a time. This time I was in the chapel when a wonderful Sister who had baked the Sacrament bread offered me one of the 3 extras that she baked for friends in the Ward. Later that day, I broke my fast with the same bread that I tooIMG_20170501_015133k at Sacrament, and I can only echo the little boy who sat with his parents on the bench in front of me in church, “YUMMY bread!!!!”

When I left Kernersville, I took a different route out of town. The car continued, purring like a kitten through the rest of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Vermont and then New Hampshire before it began acting up again.

Before Kernersville, I spent a lot of time in South Carolina hunting up a bit of genealogical history. During a middle of the night perusal of my family tree on FamilySearch.org, I discovered that one of my “brick walls” was born in South Carolina. Married in Rowan County, North Carolina, Rebecca Wassin reported that she had been born in South Carolina. I searched the history rooms at libraries and I scoured microfiche in thIMG_20170501_014619e state archives, but it was to no avail. I could not find any record of her family. What I did find was a personal awakening about our nation’s history in the early 1800s before the Civil War.

While in South Carolina, I was invited to stay with a wonderful Sister named Leanna after the Women’s Session of General Conference. She had two dogs also and our dogs became friendly as we also developed a friendship. I stayed a few days before a personal situation caused me to need to be in an environment I could control due to my mental illness. But I remain incredibly thankful for her generosity.

Before leaving Florida, after Jacob left heading back to Washington, I was having issues with the publisher of the magazine I started this trip writing for, when Sunday came along. Being left without the funds promised, I felt quite discouraged. I was in a city called Palm Bay. That was where I met a Sister named Nikki and her family. I had beenIMG_20170501_014131 more open about the fact that I was living in my car, than I had been in most of my church visits. I don’t know why, I just felt compelled to be a bit more open on that particular Sunday.

Nikki invited me to dinner, then her daughter gave up her bedroom for the night and the dogs and I were invited to stay over. It was a blessing that was so appreciated. The night before the dogs and I were attacked by mosquitoes that were quite gigantic in the Volvo where it was too warm to put the windows up. I was covered in bites and so were the dogs. The next day, Nikki and her children took me to Walmart and purchased a cart full of fresh fruits and other necessities that were quite needed. I was completely humbled. Not as humbled, however, as the fact that weeks later during text conversations with Nikki, she shared with me that her children still keep me in their prayers. Specifically praying that someone will pay me for my writing. These are the things that hit me right in the “feels” as the kids say nowadays.

After we left Palm Bay, a bit more set for our travels, we continued north in Florida. I was in DeLand when I was contacted by a Sister from “across the pond” who had read my story about being “Transient in Trump’s America.” She had a bit of “extra cash” as she put it and really wanted to help me out. I was torn. As much as I have received from others, I HATE asking for help. I REALLY long to be on the OTHER side of providing for others, I dislike the situation I am in currently not being able to completely provide for myself or have anything extra to give to others. She persuaded me over a couple of days and I finally accepted her help. Jean had made a point of explaining that she had been in my situation and she wanted to pay forward the help that she had received.

IMG_20170501_013831After that explanation, I finally consented to accepting her help. It was a major blessing. With Jean’s help, I was able to finance a week at a campground, taking a much needed time-out from traveling that coincided with a week break from my classes.  It also ended up giving me an opportunity for some major self-care as I fought off some of the worst allergies and chest cold that I had experienced in my travels that far.

There have been friends that I have met on Facebook and on other trips that I have been able to visit along the way. Those visits have been, for the most part, limited to a few hours. That isn’t what this trip has been about. This trip was about making it to New Hampshire to watch the first person in my family graduate from a University.IMG_20170501_015048

I will be walking the day before my daughter, but won’t finish my classes until August. My daughter, my youngest child, remains the first person in our family to graduate from college. It will be the best Mother’s Day present in history to watch her walk across that stage and be presented with her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics.  All of the blessings that I have received on the way here have all lead to that. The goal when I left Arizona where my second divorce was finalized and I was left with nothing to my name except the Volvo and my dogs was to get to New Hampshire before Mother’s Day.  I have made it to New Hampshire. I was only able to do so with an incredible amount of help from God and all his angels on this earth. I am more than blessed and I appreciate each and every one of them.

(Also posted on MaggieSlighte.com)

From Manchester to Manchester: Meeting My Church Family Across the United States

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

In Kitsap County, Washington State Manchester Ward

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.

Oregon Seaside

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.

Jacob Building a Snowman at the Grand Canyon, Arizona

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

Snowflake, Arizona Temple

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

Houston, Texas Temple

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.

Lake Mary Stake Center

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.

Behind Key West Branch

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

Ft. Lauderdale Temple

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.

Interlachen, Florida

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

IMG_20170423_123659
Hilton Head, South Carolina

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.

Monck’s Corner, South Carolina

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!

20170323_132210_hdr-1.jpg.jpg
Columbia, South Carolina Temple

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)

Manchester, New Hampshire

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.