Today is one of those days. A “when it rains” kind of day. Being married and having a home takes work! I love my husband, I love our little house, I love our menagerie consisting of two dogs, two cats, and occasionally guest appearances by a mob of emu. Yes, I said emu as my husbands family raises them.
So, why is it raining? Congratulations, our mortgage was re-evaluated. They want more money, a lot more than we can afford. We know in the long run that today’s hysterics (mine, complete with sobbing in the shower and asking for guidance, resulting in a migraine and then some) and my husband’s sense of reality collided. While we can make it work, things will be incredibly tight. Important things like tithing may no longer be an option for us as eating becomes a priority.
It’s a major lesson learned for us since we’re new to this home ownership thing. But we’re learning, it’s a big lesson, but we can make it work and it will work out. Sticker shock, we’ll survive.
So with all this craziness today, complete with a horrific case of nervous tummy, we’re home from work, putting our heads together and coming up with a plan.
First step in that plan, have faith. I know it’ll work out but we can’t do this on our own and we don’t have to. So, as a reminder, I thought I would take the time to share my conversion story. I posted it on an old blog, but it’s a reminder to stay focused and true, and keep moving forward.
From My So Called Yuppie Life, November 11, 2011
As a child I called [Mormon] temples little plastic castles, never being close enough to see them for what they are. As an adult, I had traveled past one while commuting from Los Angeles to San Diego on a regular basis but was never able to grasp what they were or their importance, only that I wasn’t permitted to venture inside.
Over the last three years, the walk of my life would redefine who I am through education, tragedy, relationships and the moving of the Holy Spirit in my heart. Over the next few pages, I’ll be sharing with you that journey which is the testimony I wish to bare to you. It is also the story of my life and the story of my heart.
My life has never been an easy one. Some people will talk about bad days, bad weeks, bad months, bad years or bad decades. Until a few months ago, I would stand firmly on the grounds that I have had up until this point a “bad life”.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents are amazing people and I have a wonderful family and we all did the best we could with what we have and were given, but the circumstances that would befall me through my most influential years could be considered nothing more than a series of unfortunate events. These losses, some more tragic and devastating than others, from loved ones to innocence, as well as poor life choices that resulted in domestic violence are ones of the past. Some so grievous that there are those who know me as a person and have watched me grow over the past few years and can’t help but to ask, “How is it you stayed sane?” (I personally argue sanity as a point of view of the beholder and that when it comes to my own mental capacity, that I am neither sane or insane, but unsane which is the art of being both and neither at the same time.)
To skip through some of the most gruesome details that are not fit for polite conversation, and ones that after years of personal study through Celebrate Recovery and working my steps and processing these events, have finally been healed through is a blessing not just for me, but for you. Recent changes in my life have also washed these events away and I stand firm in this belief.
The most important parts of this story began around my birthday on in March of 2008. I didn’t necessarily want to go home and see my family. We’re the kind of family that loves each other dearly, but also gets along much better when there are a few thousand miles between us and our time together spent well and for less than a few weeks at a time. In the back of my head, I felt a push toward going home and found myself looking at air fare which would take me from Austin, TX to Syracuse, NY. Deciding I couldn’t afford the tickets, the thought was pushed aside.
Over the next few weeks I wouldn’t just feel an insisting pull toward home, but I would hear a voice that insisted that I go home. After weeks of fighting the urge and promptings, I finally looked at my work schedule and purchased tickets that would take me home at the end of May. The fare was affordable, much more so than the week before, so despite the urging of that voice which told me I should go home sooner, I was content with the thought that I would soon be on my way home.
This brings us to May 12, 2008, only six days before I would fly home. Just thinking about this day brings tears to my eyes and causes my heart to jump into my throat. It’s one of those days, a moment really that threatens to define you. One where you either give in to the enemy and are lost forever or one where you truly begin listening to the promptings of spirit.
My mother called late in the evening on May 12. Working overnights, I hadn’t quite woken up yet, nor did I answer my phone. Rarely, if ever does she leave a message and I was definitely surprised that my phone ‘dinged’ after downloading voice mail.
“Ker – as soon as you get this call me.”
My mother has only said that twice since. Once in November of 2010 had been to tell me that my grandfather had taken his life and the other was a false alarm. This time, she would tell me that my oldest nephew, Zachary John had a brain tumor. My mother, being a nurse for longer than I have been alive also told me it wouldn’t be operable and that there would be little that anyone could do.
While his illness brought our family blessings beyond any we could have imagined (nearly half a year of paid vacation time donated by the members of the local fire and police departments, treatment at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis by the most amazing care team, a community outpouring of generosity through an amazing fund raiser, a pug pup which Zak would name Burrito and so many more), ultimately there would be nothing anyone could do. Zak suffered from a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DipG). While it was possible to beat back the cancer into brief remission, only 4% of the children with his condition survived their first round of chemotherapy. There was a 2% statistic for those who made it through their second round into remission as the disease returned more furiously and more resistant after the first round. There still is no statistic for children making it past their second remission.
I wanted to move my tickets and go home immediately, but my mother would plead with me to wait to come home because we didn’t want to scare him. After several days of testing, at the urging of my Uncle Buddy, my sister and my nephew’s doctors reached out to St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital, the next morning, the one before I would fly home, St. Jude’s reached out to them. They would have a 9 AM flight and they raced to catch it, escorted by the local police department.
I learned quickly not to ignore that prompting that I hadn’t felt in years.
In August, Zak would return from St. Jude’s healthier than he had been when he left to on his Mission as a Cancer Warrior. Despite this general improvement, he tired easily, and had begun swelling as a result of the steroids and chemotherapy treatments.
A week later I would come home for two weeks on FMLA to relieve my sister, spend time with my niece Victoria, and her older brother Joshua, the middle child as well as get my fill of Zak attacks and his humor, his smile, his laughter, and help him combat his depression now that he knew what he was up against.
While I was home, Zak asked me if I’d see him in heaven.
At the time, I was anything but a believer. But I couldn’t help but reassure him that I would. I prayed with him to ask Jesus into my heart, but at the time I was so heart broken that I didn’t feel anything, only the need to make sure that my nephew who had been ministering to our family through his illness and doing his best to make sure we believed he wasn’t in pain, even though he was, had as few worries as possible.
Zak would be swept up by Heavenly Father on December 26, 2008 while in the arms of his mother and father, and surrounded by his family. As per his wishes, University Hospital would remove the baseball-sized tumor from his brain and send it to St. Jude’s for study.
I myself would return home defeated. At the time I didn’t understand that making Zak ill was the only way that the enemy could effect him and that the miracle wasn’t in Zak’s healing, but was in the release from the bonds of his illness. My life was in turmoil and I was in a state of frustrated, pain filled anxiety.
Having given my life to Christ I would go through the motions of dealing with my grief through my first encounters with Celebrate Recovery and by attending Grace Covenant Church. Though the hardest part of this journey was that I still didn’t believe. Despite baptism, and the progress I had made so quickly, it was superficial.
I finally turned to God and demanded that he prove to me that there was a Star of Bethlehem. This proof needed to be based in science, historical and astronomical fact and as far as I had known, no one had discovered the Star or been able to explain it’s origins.
If I could prove that there was no star then there would be no Wise Men leaving the tribe of Daniel to follow it to Bethlehem, no baby in a manger and no Christ because he would turn instantly into a fairy tale. Then I wouldn’t need to worry about God, Jesus or any of the religious “nonsense”.
I researched, coming to understand the characteristics of the star and based on the information I had was not able to locate it, I’d even failed to do the obvious and search for the Bethlehem Star on Google. (That in and of itself would have been to easy…) As such, I felt I had my justification to denounce the belief of Jesus as the Christ in every way shape and form.
The Sunday School class I had been attending was having a gathering after church one Sunday afternoon. The same day I demanded God show me proof of the star or that this was it. No star, no Jesus, no God, no Kit following them because they didn’t exist, end of story.
During our outing, after our potluck, we watched the Bethlehem Star where a lawyer would locate the Star itself, based on the nine characteristics of the star, a mistranslation of a work by Kapernicus and Starry Night Backyard Edition located the star itself. In the documentary Larson himself even mentioned that his website was the most trusted search result. I had a ginormous “duh” moment, but when it comes down to it, I know that I needed to do the research to identify the Star’s characteristics before I would have accepted Larson’s documentary and research for fact. (www.bethlehemstar.net for details)
So, I have to admit, God got me there. I was on my way and even decided I wanted to continue to work with women through recovery because at the time it felt like it was all I was doing. During this course of study, I had to write a paper based on the works I had studied regarding the Evangelical view of the Mormon Church and the basis of it’s theology.
While finishing the paper itself I began to date my now boyfriend Jeremy and began to get to know the members of his Mormon family. The problems I had with what I had finished in my paper verse what I was seeing, was a completely contradictory to what I had written for school. These were no cultists, they in no way resembled the Fundamentalists who made bad press for the church itself.
I turned to a friend at work who was a returned missionary and recently married and sealed in the Temple and asked Steven what I should do and what should I expect. Jeremy’s presence in my life was definitely different than the presence any man had ever brought into my life.
Steven, knowing my thoughts about science and how they interact with my spiritual beliefs told me to start with the Book of Mormon where Christ appears in the “New World” and work backwards and compare the stories to the Incan, Aztec and Mayan histories.
Here, working backwards in the Book of Mormon, were the stories of a people that hadn’t been fully vetted by scholarly journals as told by a man with very little education, one that could barely read let alone write.
With these thoughts in mind I took a semester off, during which the university I was studying at did not renew it’s nation accreditation and I ended up withdrawing from my combined Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Ministry program in order to pursue study of the Book of Mormon.
On September 24, 2011 I was baptized, having done most of the work for our Missionaries.
This week, while on vacation, I had the opportunity to see several Temples. We’d visited Rexberg and Idaho Falls in Idaho, saw the Ogden and Bountiful Temples from the road and wandered Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Needless to say, I finally got to see those little plastic castles up close. They were anything but little. Walking around the Salt Lake City Temple, Jeremy laughed as I sat there and cried while looking into the reflection pools, fell in love with the organs in the Tabernacle and in the Conference Center.
During our walk on the grounds we made our way up to the top of the South Visitor’s Center and found the statue of the Christ surrounded by a painting of the universe. While Jeremy took pictures, I couldn’t help but cry.
While meditating over the painting of Joseph Smith meeting Christ and Heavenly Father in the grove for the first time, I felt a stirring in my heart, but this stirring was much more powerful and very different.
I was filled with overwhelming joy. I know now in my heart soul what I knew scientifically and historically only a few weeks before this day knew and it is my testimony to bare to you.
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of Heavenly Father in flesh, the child foretold of by Old Testament Prophets who left the tribe of Daniel and journeyed to Bethlehem to find. The same man would go on to heal the sick and minister to those who were spiritually poor, share the word of His Father with common man and would ultimately atone for the sins of man and reunite man with Heavenly Father.
The Holy Bible is the Word of God.
The Book of Mormon is the Word of God translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith who would restore the Church of Christ based on this work and his vision.
I also testify that Thomas S. Monson is a living Prophet who speaks from the Heart of our Heavenly Father and is guiding us during trying times where we have begun to see the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
I am thankful and blessed to have the Elders and friends who guided me forward on this journey and also for the welcome I have received by the Church and the Relief Society as a whole. I’ll even admit that for a moment when the ward voted to welcome me that part of me in that split second pondered what would happen if they had voted no, even though I knew that they would welcome me with open arms.
With these things in mind, I can testify that not only based on scientific fact, but spiritually, that through my education, my research and my time walking in this life which ultimately brought me to be who I am today, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the one true church.
I leave this testimony for my children and any who will come after me in either investigation of my faith or in need of renewal of their spirit in the name of Jesus Christ.
Just reading through this testimony has brought up my spirits, who knows, maybe it can help to bring up yours.