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.

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!

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.

Loving My Friends

I remember the nervousness that overcame me not long after I felt the impression to seek out and listen to the Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They talk a lot about “being in the world, but not of the world,” but all of my friends were “of the world,” none of my family were members of The Church (except my granddaughters) and most of my friends had “alternative lifestyles.” When I decided I wanted and needed to be Baptized, I prayed constantly about the situation with my friends. How could I tell my friends I was now a member of the “Mormon” church, would they want to be my friends anymore? Did that matter?20130323_134149_thumb.jpg

During my repentance process in the weeks before my Baptism I was relatively quiet on Facebook, a social media outlet where I had spent an inordinate amount of time during the previous 5 years accumulating an audience for my writing. At times I had been known to make a spectacle out of myself, becoming rather dramatic about loves and losses and pain and pleasures. I had been known for “letting it all hang out.” How could I reconcile my previous behavior with the life I wanted, no, needed to create and begin to live? I prayed more.

The answers came gradually, but they came. I was impressed to read “The Articles of Faith.” They all rang so true in my heart that not only did my “bosom begin to burn” but I also wept with joy several times. Then I came to the 11th:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

The second part of that statement, “and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may [emphasis added]” caused me to completely lose my cool. I broke down and cried loudly; I bawled. Why? Because it was an answer to my prayers. There was NOTHING in the Mormon Doctrine that said I had to exclude those who

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worshiped differently from myself from my life, ABSOLUTELY the opposite!!!

Relief filled my soul. But what about all of the people who followed my social media? Now that I no longer practiced alternative beliefs, should I even be “out there” in the public? What about all of my photos and the things I posted?

As I began to hint about my baptism on social media some people I thought were my friends were quick to delete me from their connections, I cried but continued to pray about it. I didn’t want to lose friends, but those people who had “unfriended” me weren’t acting like friends. My prayers to my Heavenly Father continued, so did my tears.

I deleted hundreds of photos of myself that embarrassed me from my social media accounts and  I prayed to know if I should continue with an online presence. After all, it would have been easier just to delete the accounts.

The impression I felt from the Holy Ghost was persistent: I needed to be LOUDER about my conversion than I was my sins. 

I was at a loss as how to accomplish that. The year before my Baptism was quite humiliating as I looked back upon my own inequity to others in addition to myself. I continued to pray and study my scriptures.

Then came the answer: Start a blog about your conversion to The Church. Share your feelings about God and your faith and be honest with those who follow you. 

My unease continued even after I started the FIRST iteration of Slightely Mormon on Blogger. Then, in June 2013, came a directive in video conference form to ALL the Missionaries and the Missionary Members of The Church. This was the answer I had been awaiting. It was a confirmation of the personal revelation I had received from the Holy Spirit.

In a few weeks, it will have been 4 years since I sought out Missionaries to receive the lessons leading to my Baptism. In the subsequent years I have “cleaned up my act” on Facebook and other social media outlets, but I am louder than ever! I want the world (including my friends) to know HOW being a Mormon has changed my life! 

In the last four years I have worked hard trying not to alienate my friends and family. It’s difficult to convey to them how much I love ALL of them and I respect what they  chose to believe in, all of that is part of them and I love them. img_20170204_093448_445.jpg

I had an opportunity to travel with a very dear friend of mine recently. Cub, as he likes to be called, is a professional photographer and acted as my assistant on a recent trip. In our travels across the country, we incurred our number of odd looks at us, but he helped me to see my world through different eyes. I saw judgement from my fellow church members when they watched him light a cigarette, I felt their stares and disapproval in both of our directions. That made me incredibly sad.

We visited the Ft. Lauderdale Temple towards the end of our time together. I asked Cub to take some photos of me when I was done with my session; he enthusiastically complied. When we were finished with our pictures another temple patron asked him to take her photo. Cub graciously agreed to do so.

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The first share on Instagram

While he was doing that act of service, I took a few snapshots myself for social media. I shared it first on Instagram as “Cubby doing service at the Temple,” then, after talking it over with Cub, I shared it again on my Facebook page and to a group called Facebook group focusing on members of The Church with an additional introduction:

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The second photo, captioned for Facebook

For a while I almost felt like I was exploiting my friend and his service. Although he had given his consent for both photos to be shared on the internet inclusive of my comment about his lifestyle, he had not asked for the photo to be taken.

While Cub probably wished I had allowed him to continue his nap in the car, I felt it was important. There was a lesson here for not only me. I am not ashamed of my friends. I love each and every one of them. Not in spite of their beliefs or their actions, but as WHOLE people with different ideas about life and different understandings of the universe.

We read in John 13:34 that Jesus Christ himself told us:IMG_20140112_161015_092.jpg

 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

I believe that His love is unconditional. That is something I try to work towards each and
every day.  I am so grateful to ALL of my diverse friends, like Cub, who help me to remember what my Heavenly Father commanded me to do.

Cub capturing a sunrise on Key West, while I photographed the photographer.