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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.
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 today I expounded on the trials that lead to my graduation ceremony, but 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.
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 present journey across the United States, whenever I felt doubts or fears or just needed to thank Him for His graciousness and guidance, I have been privileged to take in a session at a local temple.
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 that had been unseemly towards my soon-to-be ex-husband and the woman who seduced him in her dining room while I watched the previous spring. 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 that favored my adulterous husband, leaving me without even belongings that I brought into the marriage.
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, 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.
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 own 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 very intelligent people. This discovery leant even more meaning to my graduation from Southern New Hampshire University on THIS May 13th.
South Carolina was the last Temple I have visited for a few months, but when the day of my second anniversary of holding my Temple Recommend 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 Temple 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.
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 plug 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 area, 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.
That was 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 took 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 the 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 been 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.
After 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.
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)
As I set about writing my personal history, this blog post from 3 years ago came into mind, “Either way, I don’t believe you can write a history about someone without trying to emulate the forgiveness of Christ. To attempt to understand that your ancestor or whomever you are writing about, is a Child of God, first and foremost, with challenges like all of us.”
What is the right way to write one’s life?
What is the proper way to remember another person’s life?
With what filters do we present our lives and those of whom we’ve shared; to our descendants?
Is it proper to filter out the times when children of God entertained demons of pride, vanity, ambition, depression, doubt & fear; resulting in addictions and abuse?
Is it proper to “white wash” a personal history?
Does it negate or minimize the triumphs of the abused and oppressed??
How do we maintain an Eternal Perspective when writing our personal and family histories?
I began pondering these questions and more in regards to writing family histories a while ago. When Family Search implemented their “stories & Life Sketch” portion of Family Tree; it was a topic that rarely left my conscious thinking.
As I have alluded to in previous blog posts
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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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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)
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.
On March 23, 2013 I was baptized. March 23 of this year came around and I was visiting Columbia, South Carolina. It seemed a fitting day for a temple trip. After all, I was in the area hunting up ghosts of my ancestors.
During a middle of the night genealogy session spurred by The Spirit, I was reminded that one of my “brick walls” was my 4th great-grandmother, “Becca Wassin,” on my mother’s mother’s side. She had stated in her marriage record to her husband Solomon Richardson that she was born in South Carolina, but after several searches and reading more probate record archives than I would have liked from the mid 1800s (a rough awakening for this “northerner”); I could not find her family in South Carolina. Her marriage bond was found in Rowan County, North Carolina at the Rowan County main library, but I could not tie her to any family in South Carolina to any degree of certainty.
I decided to make an appointment for a baptism session for myself after my regular session. It proved to be a very spiritual evening to celebrate my milestone of 4 years in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A few hours before my sessions, I recorded this video of reflection and testimony at the Columbia, South Carolina Temple. Enjoy
On March 6, 2013, I said a prayer. A short prayer, a simple prayer, THEN I acted on the impression I received. Since that moment, my life has changed significantly.
Let me back up for a few moments. The year 2012 was a very full year for me. While I was travelling the country, I was aggressively pursued by a blogger who had made a name for himself in the world of my medicine, and he made no qualms about the fact that he wanted to add me to his “stable” of a wife and a mistress. After arguing it out more times than I can remember, it was his wife who finally begged me to “make him happy” by consenting to be his mistress after he had dumped the first one. After 6 weeks of living in hell with him while he abused me physically and sexually, I left in tears and tatters. I knew what I had done was wrong. But what I didn’t understand was what to do with my life after it had taken such a wrong turn. That wasn’t who I wanted to be. Not in the least. But HOW would I become who I could and wanted to become? Who was I? All I knew was that I was completely lost.
I had come to live in the attic of my mother’s house that she had abandoned about a year previous when my brother’s mess was more than she could handle. There was much work to be done to fix up the mess created during his drug binges and his “friends” who had done their share of robbing my mother blind. In the attic I found my peace. It was a place I could meditate and study. It was a private place I could pray. So, pray I did. I got down on my knees on the hardwood floor and asked my Heavenly Father how to come closer to Jesus Christ.
It seemed like a simple prayer at the time. However, the answers I was seeking weren’t at all simple to me. I had read some of The Book of Mormon, and I had read more of my Bible, but I didn’t know even where the local meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was in my area. I had never seen missionaries near my mother’s house. I had a few questions for them.
A few weeks before, my friend’s sister had taken me to a potluck at her Ward’s building in a neighboring community. They seemed nice. I liked the Spirit that was at the meal. But I wanted to know how to get to the church nearest me. So, I set about calling the number listed in Google for the meetinghouse (whose address was a mystery to me, not knowing the area very well and having no transportation at the time). I called many times during the 2 weeks previous to my prayer, but no one ever answered. (Apparently no one does answer the phones in the meetinghouses…personally I think they should all be forwarded to the Missionary’s cell phones!). If I had understood THEN what I know NOW, I would have got online and messaged an Elder at Mormon.org...but alas, I thought it would mean weeks or months of waiting (it ISN’T!) so I didn’t.
I DID pray. Four years ago, I had the faith to get down on my knees and ask HIM what I needed to do to become closer to Christ. Immediately, with a light in my heart brighter than the sunbeams coming through the attic window, I was impressed that I needed to take missionary lessons and become a member of a church I had NEVER ATTENDED!!! I had even taken upon inactive member’s offenses AGAINST the church because they were my friends! I had taken a lot of time saying negative things about this church that I was now being impressed that I HAD to join for my own salvation and that of my granddaughters!!
That being a lot of information to take in after a prayer, I immediately set out to call the only person that I knew who was an active member of The Church. My granddaughter’s other grandma. Mary answered the phone, and after she heard my account of my prayer and the answer I received, her immediate reaction was, “WHAT A TESTIMONY!!!!”
My reply reflected my ignorance, “What’s a Testimony? How do I get Missionaries to come and teach me more?”
My fears started to grow: I had been abused by men most of my life, since I was an infant; HOW could I allow men to teach me about Christ? Those fears and so much more were answered when I answered the doorbell, less than 30 minutes after my call to Mary. In front of me stood two of the most beautiful young women I had ever seen in my life. They glowed with the light of the Gospel of Christ. They GLOWED with the Holy Spirit.
It took me a few weeks, but I was Baptised on March 23, 2013. Today marks 4 years since that day of prayer. I feel more strongly than ever the best thing I ever did was to pray…and ACT on the impressions I received. I have a home, now, everywhere I go: watch my Testimony here!
Today I bore my testimony. My Testimony of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I bore my testimony that They LIVE and give me guidance every single time I ask. But I didn’t say those things.
Those words stayed locked inside of me as I thanked the Manchester Ward of the Bremerton, Washington Stake for their love and prayers during this season. This crazy but yet Testimony-strengthening season.
It started quite some time ago. My first divorce, started six years ago, was full of drama and pain for not only myself and my husband of 22 years, but also for our three children. I was not at all charitable in my actions towards him in my pain.
Three years after that, while I was searching for answers of a deep and eternal type, I was Baptized and Confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
About four months after my Baptism, I was impressed to message my ex-husband, Bruce, and tell him “I forgive you, please forgive me.” A very short, but meaningful sentence to me, to us both. He messaged back, “yes, I forgive you.”
This December, while Bruce lay in the hospice ward of a hospital on Christmas, we were able to spend time together that would not have been possible if I had not followed that impression four years ago. Bruce had not been in the country for a few years, so we had no communication at all during my last short marriage. When he returned, he had sustained further strokes and had difficulty communicating. This was the week before Christmas.
It was a blessing to be able to visit with my first ex-husband on Christmas day. We spoke about our children and looked at photos of his parents and grandmothers who had preceded him across the veil.
It was a Christmas when I felt my Testimony of Christ. I felt God’s hand in His timing of Bruce’s passing. He held on for two more days after Christmas. I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for bringing me back to spend the time with Bruce and with my daughter during her grief.
I know that my Heavenly Father loves and cares for me in ways I have no way of comprehending at this time. I know it was He, through the Holy Spirit, who guided me in my travels back to Washington to be with my family. I know it is He who will be with me every day of my life yet to come.
I leave this Testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ.
(This story is published as it was submitted for a grade in an advanced writing class…I also wanted to share it with all of you)
I had planned to leave a week in advance; I had planned to rent a car. I had also planned to come back home after the twins were baptized. I didn’t plan leaving my husband at his behest. I didn’t plan to divorce him. But nothing went as planned.
The First 24 Hours
My identical twin granddaughters were finally turning eight. I had waited for this moment since I was baptized 3 years earlier. The prayer I said, the impressions received, all the events leading up to my joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had included feelings that I was somehow important to their spiritual progression. This was the year, in keeping with our Church’s beliefs that the age of 8 is the age when a person is able to understand right from wrong, they would have the opportunity to be Baptized if they desired. I had promised them in the baptismal font after my own that I would be on the other side when they entered the waters of Baptism.
The girls, Alice and Rayden, were to turn 8 on the 18th of July. But on the 22nd of June, my husband and I had quite the argument. Like many before, it ended with him walking away. This time he didn’t come back until I was packing my things for the trip to see my granddaughters. He had been given a fixer-upper 1983 Volvo, and wanted to give it to me for my journey. The intent was that I would not be returning home right away, but would take a couple of months to visit friends and family in Western Washington, while he and I worked out our differences through distance. Although I kept getting feelings of car failures (a very big anxiety trigger for me), I accepted the opportunity to be away from Arizona for the monsoon season and I really missed my friends and family in Washington. I was definitely D.O.N.E. being anywhere near my husband, even to accept the generous offer of a vehicle.
The fight had been like none other. Having a disorder that many know as Multiple Personality Disorder, but is listed in diagnostic manuals as Dissociative Identity Disorder, I have lost many memories through the years into separate places of my brain. Some I have “co-consciousness” with, others I do not. The personality holding this memory is not one I have access to. I believe my husband, when he contends I said some awful things. However, I do understand what set me off: It took four “NO”s for him to understand it didn’t mean “yes” and finally got off of me. He knew I am a multiple rape survivor, it is part of the cause of my diagnosis, I can only imagine WHAT my “alter” (personality) said to him about it. Some of them (“alters” or “alternative personalities) can be very protective.
I cancelled my rental car and awaited the days until we could pick up the car from the mechanic who was replacing the distributor and timing belt. Originally scheduled to pick up the rental car and leave for Washington on Tuesday, I was packed and ready to leave. On Wednesday and Thursday I lived out of my packed suitcases and the few cans of food that I could open and eat without making too much mess. I didn’t want to be in Arizona, I wanted to be on my way to the granddaughters. When I looked at the photo of our wedding on the wall, I just cried. I put the framed photo into the cupboard, he could take it back out when he came back. If he wanted to.
Each day that passed while we awaited the distributer being shipped from the east coast to our remote area in northern Arizona, him in the little RV that we had fallen in love in, me five miles away at the newer 5th wheel where he abandoned me and our dogs and cat. The few messages between us were curt and short, but he agreed to help me pick up the Volvo: I would drive my friend’s truck to the mechanic, then he would drive the Volvo to her house to drop off the truck. Now, if we could only be in the same place without arguing, it would be a miracle.
Today was Friday, the twins would be eight on Monday, I had to get to Washington, but would it happen?
On the way to the shop early in the morning, the absence of a radio in the truck was painfully noticeable. It was a sunny day in the White Mountains of Arizona, but the mood between my husband and me was as dreary as Seattle in November. Conversation was forced and difficult. My pulse raced with anger and words I dare not say, after all, he was giving me a car.
Back at the little RV which was closer to main roads for staging purposes, Keith helped me pack not only the things I would need on my visit north, but also those important things I couldn’t leave behind in uncertainty. Contained in three sealed boxes were six years of journals, my most prized possessions: books to be written. The boxes were heavy in the back center of the large Volvo trunk. The suspension needed to be replaced, but there wasn’t the money for that. The rest of my belongings, as well as 40 pounds of dog food for my 5 year old service dog, Athena, stuffed the trunk. Provisions for the road purchased on sale to avoid the temptations of truck stops filled a small cooler on the floorboard of the passenger seat, as well as the seat itself. Vitamin and “Smart” Waters, “natural” and healthy varieties of vegi chips, jerky, dried fruits to replace my craving for Gummy Bears and a few treats would be my sole diet during the trip. Bedding and two suitcases competed with Athena and her necessities in the back seat. The Volvo was stuffed to the point of dragging on the non maintained road I had to navigate to drop my husband off before leaving Arizona. By this time it was dark
“Keith, there’s a weird vibration somewhere near the tire in front of you, can you check it out?” My husband hated getting under cars, after having one collapse on him while working in the heat in Phoenix; I hated to ask him to do it, but I didn’t know what I was looking at. At least he was trained as a mechanic.
He agreed to look, but said he could find nothing that would explain the issue. I was frustrated, but he and I were not communicating so I let it be and left him with a hug and many tears.
The ride in the rural area of Eastern Arizona up to Interstate 40 was a peaceful one as it approached midnight. Cranking the music on the FM radio, I easily found a country song that I could sing and cry to. The country music singers that had romanced one another and married while Keith and I were doing the same, were now getting divorced. The tears fueled the accelerator. But the weird vibration continued in the area of the left front tire.
I filled up my gas tank in Holbrook before getting on Interstate 40, a quick call back to my husband brought back anger, frustration and tears making me wish I hadn’t called. Athena did her business and wasn’t interested in drinking water. She and I had made several trips between Washington and Arizona these last couple of years; If the car was this packed, and Papa wasn’t with, it was likely to be a very long night of driving. No matter how many times I would prompt her when we travelled, she hated eating. It was a sore spot between us as a service partnership. But tonight I let it be. We had spent enough time in the past 5 years together for me to understand that I wasn’t going to change her mind, and I was only going to frustrate myself trying. I got back into the car and proceeded to the interstate.
As I drove on interstate 40, it was apparent to me that my vehicle had been manufactured in the 1980s, the highlighted speed on the speedometer was 55, but the analog clock on the dash still worked! As I attempted to get the car up to the speed limit of 80mph, I decided that might be a bit optimistic, and settled for a easy 70ish. It felt better.
The roads were dark, and the absence of passenger vehicles giving way to the night traffic of semis made the drive seem easy. I passed Winslow and approached Joseph City, the lights of the power plant lit up the night but were all too quickly gone leaving not a street light or peripheral glow to be had from the dark reservation lands.
“BANG!!!!” I felt the car lurch to the right. A blow out? But these tires were new!!!! I got the Volvo to the right side of the road, but was completely unfamiliar with where the hazard lights were. In the darkness, I reached for the glow of my cellphone plugged into the cigarette lighter, no longer charging with the ignition switch off. It was just after 1 a.m.. What could I do? How could I get to the jack with the trunk packed so full? Athena felt my anxiety rise and tried to get through the blankets packed around her to do her job, comforting me. The low glow of the cell phone didn’t do much to sooth a childhood full of fears of the dark, I curled up, hand on Athena, to nap until there was at least a glow of the sunrise to come. I knew the light would wake me. The car shook with every passing semi and I stifled my anxiety hugging Athena closer and closed my eyes.
On the Road
As I expected, I awoke when a glow of predawn light was just beginning to approach the horizon. I took my cellphone as a flashlight and went outside to assess the damage. Sure enough, the right side front tire was as flat as a pancake. And it still had the little rubber nibs on it from it’s newness!!! Flabbergasted, I went about unpacking the corner of the trunk where the tire and jack was located. I uneasily rolled the sun worn and cracked spare to the side of the car. There was not enough clearance under the car for the bottle jack that I had. I went back to the trunk, there was another jack, a simple one that hooked onto the underside of the car… only it couldn’t hook either: There just wasn’t enough room.
Crying in frustration, not even 60 miles from a place I didn’t know whether to call “home” anymore and 1,600 miles from my destination, I returned to the driver’s seat, the only free spot in the car to sit, folded my arms and prayed.
Within a few moments, I was surprised and pleased when I saw a Arizona Highway Patrol Woman’s lights on as she pulled in behind me. She got out of her car, then I got out of the Volvo, went over to the side where the tire was flat and started explaining the situation.
Without missing a beat, she pulled out a large floor jack from the back of her vehicle and together we changed out the bad tire for the spare. I was horrified when I saw the inside of the tire: It was completely shredded. I had picked up something jagged and it tore up the tire once we hit freeway speeds.
The Patrol Woman offered to give me an escort back to the Winslow Walmart which was the closest tire shop, since we both agreed the spare was not in shape to tolerate highway speeds. I was happy to have her lights behind me, doing about 50 mph, as I limped the Volvo back to Winslow.
Athena and I walked in the morning sunshine as a tech at Walmart replaced the tire, but the July Arizona sun quickly warmed up to the point of being uncomfortable and we sought cooler temperatures in the tire shop waiting room inside the store. The television caught my attention: having lived off-grid for the past nine months, the bright colors and shapes and loud noises from an animated children’s show were almost shocking. I, or at least some of my younger alters, were enjoying it though and were quite in shock when I glanced down to Athena and saw a spot of blood on the floor.
Really? You go into heat the DAY we try to leave Arizona?! My failure to have my service dog fixed tended to be a topic of discussion far too often for my preferences when it was all based in my own PTSD about the medical profession. She was also a second-generation service animal and I toyed with the idea of breeding her once before that surgery. I just hadn’t had the opportunity or the stability to follow through with that yet. Blood, yuck. I wiped it off with my shoe, hoping the few people coming in and out of the waiting room didn’t see.
Once the tire was on, we headed out again. Passing our night’s pitstop, I almost felt okay, but there was an odd apprehension still present in my stomach.
Busy traffic has bothered me more and more the farther away from it I have lived. I LOVE backroads. I detest busy freeways. The intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 40 in Flagstaff has to be one of my least favorite places to drive. A complete and sudden stop of the car as it lost electricity and power at exactly that location was the last thing I thought I could handle. As my hands shook and tears ran down my face, I called 911. “My car stopped. It just lost power and stopped! I’m at the intersection of Interstate 40 and Interstate 10.” My voice broke as I relayed the information to the operator. They would have an officer to my location asap.
The officer came, then Athena and I waited over an hour in the hot sun by the side of the busy freeway with the officer in his air-conditioned vehicle, we stood as far from the cars speeding by, for a tow truck.
When we arrived at the repair shop where the tow truck was based from, Athena growled. Not sure what she was attempting to communicate with me (she tends to growl when I need to put myself into a chair before my legs become unusable), and under an enormous amount of anxiety, I first responded to the person behind the unkempt counter who was explaining they didn’t work on foreign vehicles, only american-made. He was not impressed at my “service dog” growling and told me in a very gruff manner that the two of us could wait outside.
I cried and got caught up in my struggles with my own brain. Round and round. But I KNEW I had to be in Washington!! Suddenly, after saying yet another prayer, I heard the Holy Spirit, “don’t you think He knows you made that promise?” “Don’t you trust Him to get you where He wants you to be?”
Humbled, I called my Bishop again, seeking reassurance. He offered to speak to the men who operated the shop. They finally agreed to look at the car, being very emphatic that it was “$65 just to look at it and [they weren’t] promising anything.”
A half hour later, the men that had yelled and cussed at Athena and me all day long, informed me that my problem had been a fuse. They had also found a gas leak that was fixed with just a tightened part. I felt absolutely relieved. That awful feeling was finally gone.
As we headed out from the shop, I had the impression not to get back on interstate 40 but to take another route through Utah and Idaho: That route proved to be a little faster.
On Monday afternoon right about 3 pm I drove the Volvo into my granddaughter’s driveway. My mother was just pulling out, having come to celebrate her great-granddaughter’s birthday. She was shocked to see me. My mother and I haven’t had the easiest relationship for my first 50 years of life. The last time I had messaged her was in frustration from the Flagstaff mechanics. I hadn’t thought to let her know the situation had been resolved.
The girls came running, not recognizing the vehicle, they had to see who it was that came to visit them on their birthday. Their other grandma, Mary, a woman who stepped up to be their mother-substitute when both of our children failed in the parenting department, was in tears. She had no idea I would actually make it.
While I passed off my smart phones to the children to photograph their lives and the event of their birthday, Mary and I had a chance to speak. She hadn’t had an opportunity to purchase gifts for their birthday. Overwhelmed with the expenses of raising the three daughters that her daughter and my son had left to her raise, gifts were not in the budget.
I made plans with Mary to visit later in the week and I handed her some cash I had left from gas money I was given. She cried. I cried more. When I started the trip, I had no idea if I would have enough money for gas and expenses; I didn’t know if I would make it to Washington. However, I had received some unexpected funds from an anonymous source in the Snowflake Temple where I volunteered in the office. Those funds went to the girls for their birthday. It was a blessing unexpected by any of us.
He is Always in Control
The summer was marked by challenges with the Volvo. Although it had run without issue to get me to the twin’s Baptism; I struggled with a variety of electrical issues with the car throughout August. While attempting to regularly visit the granddaughters between visits with friends, I was forced to replace the alternator. The Volvo and I had been separated for a week while that repair was performed, and I was happy to have it back on a Friday. That Sunday I anxiously prepared for church. The drive from the friends home where I was staying, to the granddaughter’s church was almost 2 hours. I allowed two and a half to be safe. But when I went out to start the car, it wouldn’t even TRY to crank.
My hair wet from the shower and twisted on top of my head held with bobby pins, my skirt and blouse fresh from the dryer; I tried not to cry. I didn’t feel as anxious as I expected to. Once again sitting in the driver’s seat I folded my arms to pray. Immediately I felt impressed to wait for my friend to wake and ask her to take me to the local Ward building for services instead of travelling to my granddaughter’s Ward.
I went back inside the house and messaged Mary with the disappointing news: I wouldn’t be able to see her or the girls that day, we would have to wait until I knew what was up with the car this time. She understood but was disappointed. She liked having support keeping all three girls somewhat in control during the Sacrament service.
I sat and waited for my friend to awake. When she did about an hour before the Sacrament service was to begin, I asked her for a ride. Her multiple sclerosis was acting up and she didn’t feel comfortable driving, but experienced a feeling she needed to allow me to borrow her father’s truck. Her dead father’s truck that NO ONE else EVER drove. I was shocked, so was she. But I took the keys and headed over to the address indicated on the app from my church for the local Ward building.
I got to the building, but there were absolutely no cars in the lot. Not a one. Mormons all know that if there are ZERO cars in the local meetinghouse parking lot on a Sunday morning, that means there is a meeting called a “Stake Conference” at a larger building in what is called a “Stake” where several “Wards” meet together. Usually during Stake Conferences officials from the head of the church visit and give special messages to those areas. I decided to drive over to the Stake Center to see who might be visiting.
When I got close to the Stake Center, a building known as the Mullinex Building, off of Mullinex Road, I witnessed cars parked up and down the main road. Wow, I wondered who might be here. A small still voice inside of me impressed me to go to the back parking lot, there was a parking spot for me. Ignoring a packed front parking lot and cars parked up and down the main and side roads, I drove to the back lot. There was an open space right in front. I parked and got out with my notebook and pen ready.
As I walked in the door of the Stake Center I asked a mom walking a fussy toddler, tilting my head to the side, questioning, “general authority?”
She answered with a smile that lit up her face, “President Nelson!!”
President Nelson was set apart as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints last year, and is the “next in command” in respect to the leadership of The Church. I was VERY anxious to hear what he had to say! The fact that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hear him at all if the Volvo had started, was not lost on me. I sat down in back, notebook in
hand, and anxiously awaited his talk.
President Nelson left his notes and scriptures at his seat and stated that he was speaking from the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. His words were full of suggestions about teaching our children the scriptures. I was anxious to share them with Mary and the girls. But was reminded that there was something wrong with the car again.
I returned my friends’ truck to her and excitedly messaged Mary with the information about President Nelson’s visit. We exchanged frustration about the car, but I shared with her that I, oddly, didn’t feel panicked about it.
Two days later, I prayed again to know what to do about the Volvo. Immediately I was impressed to rotate the fuses: I did so, the car started right up.
Returning to Not-So-Home
I waited to leave the northwest until after I had the opportunity to celebrate my grandson’s birthday in early October. After all, what kind of grandma travels to the granddaughter’s birthdays, but leaves before the grandson’s?
Communication throughout the summer between Keith and I had been strained at best, punctuated at times by unfriending on social media and refriending but limited conversations. I kept hearing rumors that my husband was calling another woman “wife.” The thought nauseated me, but most of my possessions and the dog and cat I had left with him were there… and the plan we had made with our ecclesiastical leader to work on our marriage kept going through my head. I had to go back. I promised all of my friends in Arizona I would be there for my 50th birthday.
Despite the “thunk” that reminded me of the “Harley thunk” that you hear and feel when putting a bike into gear, I heard from under the Volvo when I put it into gear, I prayed for the car to stay together to make it to Arizona and packed it with all of my belongings (minus a forgotten suitcase) and Athena with her six – 2 week-old puppies in the back seat.
I asked a friend’s friend in Grand Junction, Colorado, to look under the car when I arrived. In Oregon the muffler had fallen and was dragging when I got off the freeway for a gas stop. Although I had a shop wire it back up, I was troubled by the noises and vibrations under the car since. It was less than 8 hours to drive to my destination, but I kept feeling like something could be horridly wrong.
The certified mechanic was troubled by what he saw under the car and encouraged me to stay in Colorado to have it fixed or at least to fully evaluate the situation. I felt strongly about my timing. I wanted to go to church back in Concho. I wanted to be with my friends. I needed to see my husband.
The mechanic tightened what he could see in the darkness, and handed me his number to call if I had any problems. I had decided to head out at night to keep the seven canines asleep in the back seat. The puppies were too young to need to be taken care of except by their mom and in the darkness Athena slept peacefully. We headed into the darkness.
Stopping only briefly for gas and for me to pee and rest a few hours, we arrived in Arizona as the sun was breaking. The vibrations were fairly stable underneath the car until about 50 miles north of St. John’s, Arizona. THUD!!!! Something hit the bottom of the car close to where the seatbelts connected in the center front seat. The entire car vibrated hard with every acceleration. There seemed to be some sort of exhaust leak. Every time I accelerated, a THUD THUD THUD shook the entire car… my heart pounded as loud as the THUD.
In a panic, I called my friend Amy and asked her to pick up my husband (to check the car out) and meet me in St. John’s, about 15 miles from my destination. She agreed.
Relieved, I finally pulled into a gas station in St. John’s and waited for Amy and Keith. When they arrived the uncomfortable mood between he and I seemed even worse than when I left Arizona. He got out of Amy’s truck and held his arms out expecting a hug, I looked at him with confusion: he hadn’t even called me in a week.
The uncomfortable situation continued as he looked under the car. When he got out, he announced that the exhaust was busted probably because of a broken transmission mount. I asked him to ride with me in case of any mechanical problem. Each mile I regretted that decision.
We parked the car at a friends’ who had a garage and who did most of the mechanical service work for the church, and I decided to spend the night camping out at Amy’s land.
When I arrived at church the next day, I was overwhelmed with friends who had to ask how the visit went. They all described praying for the car to work. I thanked them all for their prayers. But even then I had no idea how much their prayers had been needed.
The next few weeks saw my husband’s lies unfolding: I was confronted by retail shopkeepers who were confused I was still wearing my wedding band while my husband was introducing another woman as his wife on not one but two separate occasions. I filed for divorce. He filed a restraining order keeping me from my property, animals, clothing and personal belongings. My heart was as broken as my car.
When I had an expert look at the Volvo, both the mechanic and I were absolutely shocked by what was found: The Volvo needed 3 new U-joints and a new carrier bearing cushion and carrier bearing. He stated that he had never seen a driveline in that bad of shape that hadn’t been severed. None that hadn’t been in an accident.
After the car was repaired with donated labor (over 10 hours) and parts that I scraped up the money to purchase, it was time to return to Washington. The pain of watching my husband, still my husband, cavort around the tiny community and our church with another woman while we went through the legalities of a divorce was too much. I had to return to Washington. I prayed the car would make it again, my friends prayed with me.
The fact I have driven over 5,000 miles, so far, in a car that ran on prayer is something I thank God for each and every day. He guided me and through the Holy Spirit impressed upon me where He wanted me to go and He made certain I got there safely. He has also impressed upon me that perhaps I need to find a more reliable vehicle very soon. I’m working on that part currently.