Everything isn't perfect
Confession time: I get really overwhelmed sometimes with all of the expectations that come with being a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For those with a keen eye and an unforgiving memory, you'll notice I had a "One Year One Day" post and now a "Three Years Three Days" post. Well, originally I planned on doing this every year because I thought it was cute and original and fun, but all of a sudden December 23rd, 2015 rolled around and I woke up knowing that that day I needed to post something to the blog and I just didn't want to. And believe me, I am very dedicated to my commitments of laziness.
And this doesn't just apply to posting lackadaisically on this blog. There are times I wake up Sunday morning not wanting to move, let alone put on an uncomfortable dress and drag my sorry butt to church. More than once the thought has crossed my mind, "I used to wear pants to church. And it was only an hour. And I could go buy a doughnut afterwards. The Catholics have the right idea about Sundays." There are times I don't want to do my Visiting Teaching and I don't want to read my scriptures and I don't want to go to Institute and there are times I just don't want to do a blessed thing.
Yeah, I know. You don't have to tell me how shallow that kind of thinking is, but you've probably never worn jeans to church so shut your mouth.
What helps me in these pits of slothfulness I find myself in, though, is reminding myself what I would have given to have attended these events and done these things just a few short years ago. It was less than 5 years ago I would beg and plead with my mother to let me hear the missionary discussions, or to go to a fireside, or to go to a Young Women's event. The Adversary didn't trick me before I entered the waters of baptism, but he is more than capable of making me believe I don't need these auxiliary events now. In fact, a very wise institute teacher of mine once said at the beginning of the semester, "I know this class is early and it might be hard to come sometimes. But those mornings when it is easy to justify not coming, that is when you need to come the most. That is when Heavenly Father has a message he needs you to hear, and the Adversary doesn't. He will do everything in his power to convince you to stay home, but your God needs you here."
And there's certainly no arguing with that, now is there? Reminding myself of this has been immensely helpful is staying true to my covenants and getting my motivation back to being all my Father in Heaven needs me to be.
I STILL get doctrine confused
I hope and pray that I am not the only convert coming from a different religion that has this problem. If I had a dollar for every time I got into a yelling match about doctrine with my husband (that sure sounds like a recipe for a successful marriage, doesn't it?), I could probably buy a book about LDS doctrine (haha, help me).
For example: in the Catholic church at age 14, you go through a process called Confirmation, where basically you become an adult in the eyes of God. At the ceremony, you take upon yourself a new name of your choosing and that is the name that God will call you by. The name isn't secret, and in fact, some people even take it on as an additional middle name (traditionally, I would go by Sarah Marie Danielle Keating Hammon, but that doesn't fit on most standardized test forms). With this in mind, I grew up under the impression that we have an earthly name and a heavenly name. Well, I was talking to Grant about this just in passing, and (you guessed) we got into an argument about what Heavenly Father would call us by. My main argument being "Do you really see Him calling Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter by the name 'Apple' with a straight face?"
Weeeeeeeell, guess what? There's really no way of knowing for sure, but generally the consensus has been that we will be called by our earthly names, if anything at all. So I was a little bit wrong... just a little bit.
The hard thing about coming from a devout background of another religion-- although it made the first few missionary discussions a breeze-- is that this happens quite frequently. Even the LDS hymn book has hymns I recognize from my youth, but with different verses, so I'm that awkward person singing a different song if I'm not paying attention. And sometimes I really get after myself for this. It's been, like, 3 years and 3 days-- shouldn't I have all this down by now?
What I remind myself, though, is that my background is a major blessing. I am not only able to bring just a hint of diversity to the table, but a new perspective on different principles taught by our apostles and prophets. I am blessed to have found the gospel at a time when I needed it most and to know with a surety that I chose this for myself and my testimony is 100% mine. Because of my Catholic background, I understand the covenants we make in the temple very differently, but altogether so beautifully. The temple brings me so much peace and purpose, and I wonder if it would be the same without my non-traditional background.
I am so grateful for my family
My family means more to me than just about anything on this planet. My mom, my brother and I function very differently than from other families, but in a way that is a testament to me that our Father in Heaven is really looking out for us. We've weathered a lot of storms together, and because of that it feels like we work as a team more than as a traditional family sometimes. My husband would describe it as more of a gang, but that's just because he hasn't worked his way up the ranks yet.
In addition to my blood family, I am also so very blessed with my in-laws. I love going to my husband's parents' house almost as much as my own childhood home. From the moment we met, they have welcomed me in with such loving and open arms. They are genuinely interested in what I think and what I'm up to, and they are always willing to talk about anything with me. Just the other day, Grant was off running some errand, and it was just me and my father- and mother-in-law. I was sitting at the counter, just talking to the two of them, when I was suddenly overcome with a feeling of familial love. For just a moment, I felt like I was sitting at the counter with my own parents, and this was my home, and this was an everyday thing. I heard a small voice whisper in the back of my mind.
This is what I wanted for you all along. I am so sorry I couldn't give it to you sooner.
At that point, I had to excuse myself to go have a nice, long, happy cry in the bathroom. It felt so good to have two parents so focussed and attentive and loving.
As good as this felt, though, I wouldn't trade my family for anything. Especially as my relationship with my father continues to improve as he takes better care of himself, I am overcome with joy with each little step. I am so grateful for the many trials I faced with my family, as hard as they were at the time. Because of our struggles, I treasure the relationship I have with my angel of a mother and my larger than life brother. These trials tested my emotional, intellectual, and spiritual resolve again and again and again until I found myself on a solid foundation-- the bedrock that is the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.
So in conclusion...
I've stated before that although it's been 3 years since my baptism, my journey toward Christ really started about 5 years ago as a junior in high school dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Now, though there are still trials, I'm always amazed by the overwhelming light in my life. What immediately comes to mind is that I've learned so much about the process of forgiveness and my purpose here on earth. I try to imagine what my life would have been like today had a decided to go my merry way away from the Church, and although I believe I still would have found some kind of happiness, it wouldn't be nearly as fulfilling as the happiness I have found now.