|Gems of Reflection : Week 28|
So, I was born a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was baptized when I was 8 years old, but I don't think I was fully converted to the Gospel until I was an adult. I went through a period of inactivity from the time that I was about 17 years old, and for the next few years, I lived as though there was no accountability for my actions. I thought I was happy; too, until gradually, things started to unravel.
I reached a point in my life where I knew something was missing. I tried dating different kinds of guys, thinking maybe that my biological clock was just telling me that it was time to settle down and start a family (or at least add to the one I had already started), but nothing seemed to fill that void. Looking back, I realize that there were many influences that tried to point me back to The Church, but I was too blind by my worldly desires to accept that option as the solution to my problems.
I was even engaged to another man at one point - a man I really didn't even love. I think I had decided that I was tired of being a single mom, and had truly conceded to the idea that because of choices I had made in my past, I was unworthy of happiness. But then, one day I heard a voice in my head as clear as if someone were standing next to me whispering the words into my ear. It said, "This is not the life I had in store for you."
I think that was a major turning point for me. I started to evaluate my life and think about what it was that I was truly missing - what was really important. I soon came to realize what I knew all along - that in my life, I was the happiest when I was living the commandments of God.
Little by little, I started trying to make little changes that would allow me to find my path back to the Gospel - until one Sunday, I found myself sitting in the congregation of a ward where I had been a member for quite some time, yet had no acquaintance because of the life I had previously chosen to live - only, I wasn't a stranger there because I knew in my heart that I was a child of God.
I sat there in sacrament meeting that day, holding the program - which displayed a picture of Christ on the cover - and wept uncontrollably as I stared at his loving, accepting face and knew that I was loved. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by the presence of the spirit, which testified to me that THIS is where I was supposed to be.
Some time later, I read The Miracle of Forgiveness and came to understand how The Plan of Salvation applies to ME as an individual daughter of our Heavenly Father. I was reminded that Jesus died for my own personal sins, and my testimony was strengthened tremendously each day. I started going back to church regularly, and soon came to realize that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I AM able to be forgiven for the mistakes I made, and I AM worthy of happiness.
I started setting my sites on making myself worthy to attend the temple, and in the process, met my husband. He was truly an answer to my prayers, and I thank Heavenly Father for him daily. He was and continues to be a testament to me that Heavenly Father does hear and answer our prayers, and that we can be blessed with the innermost desires of our hearts if we choose to be faithful and remain worthy. We were married civilly and then were sealed in the temple one year later.
The day we went through the temple was one of the most amazing days of my life. A few days prior, I stood at the distribution center with my mom as the attendant measured me for my temple clothing. As we sat and sobbed with joy over the amazing occasion for which we were there preparing, my mom turned to the attendant with tear-filled eyes and said, "She has waited for this day for so long." Thinking that we were there planning for my wedding day (and not a sealing, which was taking place one year after our temporal marriage), the attendant said, "Oh, you are getting married. Congratulations." My mom just looked at her with a proud smile and said, "No, she is being sealed to her family." Realizing the happiness we felt that day preparing for the temple, and knowing the struggles we must have had to overcome, the attendant also burst into tears. She ended up giving both my mom and me a hug. It was such a beautiful moment. I seriously cannot think of the joy we felt that day without tearing up. I am feeling overwhelmed with emotion as I type this now.
Though my return to the Church was gradual, I do have a strong testimony that this Gospel is true, that Jesus Christ is the son of a living God, and that we too can come to be like Him. My testimony is constantly being strengthened as I attend the temple and experience answers to prayers in my own life, and I am truly grateful for second chances, for our Heavenly Father's willingness to forgive, and for His love for His children - for me. And I thank Him for the blessings I receive each day through His love and mercy.