May 08, 2012

Lighthouses (the story of my conversion to the LDS faith)

**This is L in the A-Z series**

I think we all often hear life compared to the ever changing waters of the oceans. You might even say it's 'cliche' to compare life to an ocean. I think it's done so often because, well, it's true. There are times in life where everything is calm and glassy, just like the Caribbean Sea on a warm, sunny day. And at times life violently tosses us about with giant waves trying with all their might to sink our little vessels. You never know what you're going to get...oh wait, that's the box of chocolate analogy. But you get the idea.

So if life is like an ocean, then a lighthouse is like a beacon. Something to guide you into safe harbor when you are getting tossed violently about by the storms of life (cliche, I know). It's so easy to get off course, to find yourself in rough water and desperately seeking a way out. I know, I've been there so many times. And the crazy thing is, I didn't even realize I was seeking safe harbor in my younger years (the pseudo-adulthood known as the early 20's and even younger). Yet someone else knew I was seeking, and He placed people directly in my path along the way to help guide me safely in.

At the times that I needed them, I didn't realize their significance in my life. Or that their placement in my life was far from coincidental. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 (I am on a roll with the cliches tonight). Looking back, I realize how dear these people are to me and how perfectly they were placed to keep me on a safe course. There are three people who were perfectly placed in my life to lead me to God, His church, my husband, and the happy life I have now. They were my lighthouses.

The very first person was a boy named John Peterson. Oh he is cute (I can say "is" instead of "was" because we're still friends)! He's apple pie, sunshine, California on a sunny day, and ice cream all rolled into one. And he knows it. He has a string of ladies about a mile long to show for it. But don't get the wrong idea about him because he's fabulous. He is kind, deep, spiritual, and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. I first met him when I was twelve and he was thirteen. His friend George passed me a note at school from John that said I was "georgous". I'm sure you can imagine that I was smitten after that.

John was my first boyfriend. We "went out" for a short time and our biggest step was hand holding, but his impact on my life was lasting. John is the first Mormon I had ever known on a personal level. And even in our youth, when we are wont to discard with astonishing speed the things our parents try to instill and that we know to be right on a deep level, he never seemed embarrassed about his religion. I learned a lot about the LDS church from John, but mostly I learned that LDS people were normal and didn't really have horns or sacrifice kittens and puppies every full moon to Joseph Smith. I was far from conversion at that point in my life, but it's safe to say I developed a deep respect for John and his religion. We have remained friends all these years and I have many letters we exchanged while he was on his LDS mission.

Next came Sara. My dear, wonderful Sara. I can't even put into words how much I love her or how much she means to me. At a time when I was drowning in loneliness and self involvement, Sara came into my life. She was all Morrissey, waist length hair, horn rimmed glasses, peasant skirts, and Doc Martens. And she was so wonderfully different, unique, and sure of herself. She was exactly what I needed the year my parents uprooted me to my third high school. By that point I was so weary of making new friends that I just sort of gave up and kept to myself. But then Sara came along. And we did all sorts of nerdy things together like write a poem titled "Poppy and Prepular Went to School". Um yes, I think one of us still has it somewhere.

It would be impossible to tell of all the ways Sara helped me in my life, but let's just say that without her, I think I'd be adrift somewhere in the outer rings of Antarctica by now. I can firmly say that it is because of Sara that I finally found the courage to do what I knew was the right path for me for years, join the LDS church. I was exposed to it for years through her. I would sleep over at her house on Saturday nights and attend church with her family on Sundays. I went to youth dances with Sara on many occasions, and had deep conversations about life with her at least 8,000 times. And when my heart was broken and I was at my lowest, I stumbled straight to Sara. It sounds dramatic, but it's true. The times in my life when I've been at my lowest, she has always been there to pick me back up.  How can you ever express gratitude to someone like this you ask? Why, write about her in a blog post that can only barely touch on just how important she really is.

The third person was another boy. His name was Andy. While John introduced me to the church, and Sara kept me focused on what was right, this boy was the final push I needed to embrace something that was frustratingly close and comfortable, but that still scared the bejeebers out of me. The Church didn't scare me, just the way my friends and family would react if I joined. Anyway, just as I was poised on the precipice of actually being baptized, but still scared to take the final step, I met Andy. He is sweet, cute, funny, charming as all get out, and just a wonderful person all around. Obviously I was boy crazy and the Lord used this to His advantage :).

I met Andy while he was fresh off his mission. We liked each other instantly. I'll never forget the first time we met. It was at a campfire, a singles ward activity. I saw him and asked Sara who he was. I then made her help me meet Andy. You know, I had her call him while I was sitting right there next to her, too scared to say a word, and arrange for us to "hang out" later. All three of us of course. Like many relationships among young people, ours didn't work out on a permanent basis. But like Sara and John, I owe him a big debt of gratitude for being the example I needed, for helping me learn about my new commitments, and most uncomfortably and inadvertently, making me realize I wanted to be so much better than I was at that time.

 He bought me my first set of scriptures. They were blue leather with silver edged pages and my name was engraved on them. The night he gave them to me we sat on my fireplace and read them. I have since gotten new scriptures but I still have my first set. Andy not only helped me realize my own testimony, he even baptized me. His great-grandmother sat in the audience and clapped when it was over (you're not supposed to clap). To this day I still smile at that memory. His mom had a party for me afterward at her house and invited pretty much the entire singles ward (this would have been really daunting in Utah, but in Texas an "entire singles ward" is a very manageable sized crowd). It was just the welcome into my new life I needed. And Andy was just the nudge I needed to take the final step.

Without John, Sara, and Andy placed so perfectly in my life, I'm not sure where I'd be right now. When we are right in the thick of life, it's incredibly hard to see that we are indeed on a path. It feels scattered, random, and frustratingly off course. But when we gain some distance, it is easy to look back and see God's hand in things. What seemed so random, scattered, and even sad, becomes clear and takes the shape of a path. A path that led us to where we are. I am grateful to God for loving me so much. I am grateful to the many people that led me to the family I have today. I sort of feel like I got the ultimate prize with the Church, Joe, and my kids. It just doesn't get any better than this.

1 comment:

  1. what a treat to read! you are a brave girl & i will always admire you!


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