Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Million Dollar Question

It's no surprise to those who know me or stalk my facebook that I recently got baptized. I might not be yelling it outloud through a megaphone... but I am quite eager to share the wonderful news with anyone willing to listen. Prior to my baptism, anyone who heard the news would bombard me with questions about why I started investigating the Church... why I didn't choose another religion... why I would give up so much of me to become LDS... why - why - why.

Since Saturday, June 13th, around 8 PM, the million dollar question is, "Did you really go through with it?" and after hearing I did, the change in expression in their faces is priceless, one I'd describe as a bit of awe (can be easily misinterpreted and maybe is just pure shock) and then acknolwedgment comes in the forms of, "As long as you're happy," "That's wonderful, congratulations," or "I'm very happy for you." Unknown to anyone but me (and maybe other Latter Day Saints) is... the true happiness that I feel. I thought about how I could convey it and I came up with two examples.

First, think ridiculous amounts of glee, joy, skips in your step, constant grinning ear to ear until your facial muscles tense up, butterflies in your heart (not stomach) and a very consistent emotion of being loved. It's like that child going to Disneyland for the first time the next day and trying to sleep at night, but not being able to because of the constant excitement stirring in them! I'm constantly excited about my newfound religion and life. I look forward to my daily scripture study, the challenge to become and I'm completely immersed in the power of prayer. Another analogy I shared with Elder Cox, Elder Ridge and an investigator yesterday was this: Think of when you have a crush on someone of the opposite sex and those emotions inside you when you first start talking to them. You're constantly giddy, there's a goofy grin on your face everytime someone mentions their name and you can't stop thinking of them. Now take that, multiple it by infinity, put a repeat loop at the end of it, and that is the feeling of cloud nine, because this is truly amazing, fabulous, wonderful and out of this world! I feel like a bubble - I'm all colors of wonder swirling and moving and that wonder is true happiness that nobody could give me except God. And I know it's not always going to be like this, it's not always going to be as exciting or as fresh and new as it is right now and I will have trials of faith.. but I eaglerly anticipate such. I can't wait to show how faithful I am. I can't wait to show I can change and work on my shortcomings. I can't wait to make that commitment to Him every weekend. I can't wait to endure till the end. I can't wait and I'm not anymore! I'm doing it.... I'm living it. I'm here baby!!!

Some thought it was a phase. I have $100 coming into my pocket next June as a result of a co-worker teling me I'd be non-Mormon by then (inactive they meant) and agreeing to bet on it (I know gambling is stealing but this was too good to pass up).

Some thought it was for a guy. It was. His name is God and his son, my saviour, Jesus Christ, died so that I could live and I found them through the Spirit. Oh, they meant a mortal guy walking this earth, you say? Hmmm... interesting enough my response is always the same.
1) I started investigating the Church at a family ward. To those who don't know what that is.. it's pretty self explanatory. A group that convenes at a Church to meet, mostly consisting of families, hence single available men... not so much.
2) I've been on, e-harmony, even (really cheap site - don't use it) so I'm not abashed to say I am looking for a boy who can be a man or someday my husband... but it's pretty safe to say, it takes a whole lot more than love for a mortal man to make me change my lifestyle and who I am to live the gospel I have learned about through the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.
3) If you're really curious, join me at Church and you'll see. I'm not saying you'll get baptized.. but it'll be worth it to take some lessons and start praying.. and just check it out. You must me curious.. I know I was. Plus, the missionaries rock.

I've always been curious about why Mormons don't drink. The tea and coffee thing make sense - they become so addictive, but with alcohol, there is always the argument that a glass of wine a day is good for you. Hmmm. So is moderate exercise, eating right and helping others... but then again, we don't always consistently do that, right? When I asked the first missionaries I had a lesson with about this... their response was, Heavenly Father wants to protect us and told us not to drink because he knows it will hurt us. But what about the whole a glass of wine a day is healthy for you? Think of when you drink, the things you do and how you feel. Is it still good for you then? Heavenly Father might not think so and so he wants to protect you from it. I'm a pretty reasonable person and this simple statement has so many flaws in it that I could easily have run away from the missionaries and never looked back. I politely said thanks, got in my car and drove off. My mind was a whirl. When I drink... the things I do... how I feel. Not always the smartest things.. but nevertheless fun and free-spirited, rebellious even! Moreover, my inhibitions are abandoned when I'm drinking. I don't like the side effects and I don't seem to have control over how much I drink. One glass always turns into three of four and impaired judgment has led to a couple of regretful and inappropriate buzzed driving (which per the commercials on TV is still drunk driving). Wow. Was it starting to make sense? Was God really starting to make sense to me? Was God talking to me? Was this real?

This constant curiosity.. wonders of what makes these people do such things.. what makes them so happy... kept creeping back into my head. And this is only one example, but it's a goodie!

I vividly remember receiving a letter from a Mormon co-worker about his recent marriage, his upcoming baby and his life with his wife.

*The true identities have been protected and the following names have been changed.

Family & Friends,
Merry Christmas from The Big Apple! The holidays have been busy for us and we just barely had a chance to take our Christmas card picture last week, so you'll have to excuse receiving this in e-mail form. We wanted to make sure this got to everyone before Christmas. Christmas is a great time to be in New York City and we decided to stay here for the entire Holiday season - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's - this year. We've enjoyed seeing the city all decked out for Christmas and this last weekend we had our biggest snow storm yet while living here.
Thanksgiving was a fun weekend as Jane's parents and little brother, Conrad, were in town to help us celebrate. We went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and had dinner at our house and then spent the weekend shopping, going to the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular and Cirque de Soleil's Wintuk. It was fun to have our first hosted Thanksgiving dinner and to be able to show some more family around the city that we live and love. Last night we went to Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall and for Christmas Eve today we're going to see the matinee of White Christmas, which is currently on Broadway. We'll round out the Holidays by spending New Year's Eve in Time's Square, which is 1 1/2 blocks from our apartment.
2008 has been a great year for us and we feel very blessed. We have had a wonderful first year of marriage and have been privileged to see and do so much for both work and play, and sometimes a combination of both. We've been to L.A. and Utah a couple of times each, along with trips to Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Palmyra & the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a Caribbean cruise and the Jersey Shore. We most recently celebrated our first anniversary in a cottage on Nantucket. Along with all of the trips, we've enjoyed exploring this great city that we live in and entertaining all of the guests that we've had. We have made a Top 100 list of things we'd like to do/see before we have to leave and are through almost 75 of them!
Jane has had a successful year with Access Nursing. She is now the Branch Manager for the New York City office and is still trying to get used to an office setting. She sometimes longs for the patient interaction of a hospital and finds the show Office Space a little too close to reality now to be funny. She is within walking distance of our apartment, though, and definitely has the better commute. John* continues to work in the National office of PwC in New Jersey. His 2-year tour wraps up at the end of June and has gone by extremely fast. He has learned a lot during his time here and is extremely glad he took the opportunity to come.
Our biggest news of the year came in August when we found out Jane* is pregnant. She's due April 16th and we're not finding out what we're having, so that will be a surprise. It has been fun to watch the baby grow and to feel it move. It is one of the most amazing things either of us has ever experienced and we're so excited to be parents. The nuances of having a baby in New York City have been interesting to learn and we've been practicing hailing cabs at all times of the day and night so that we can get to the hospital when that moment does come. Luckily, it's not too far away on the Upper East Side, so there shouldn't be any problems. It will also be interesting to bring the baby home in a cab - just a few of the things that have to be done differently when living in the city.
In August we got a dog. He's a Yorkshire Terrier and his name is Abindigo. He wasn't supposed to be in our Christmas picture, but we were walking him when we took it and the cameraman must have thought he needed to be in it, too. He's about 7 pounds full grown, so doesn't take up too much space in our tiny apartment. He has a great personality and brings a smile to anyone's face that he comes across. He loves to say "hi" to everyone on the street in his own way and pretty much everyone that passes makes an "awwww" noise or stops to pet him. He also thinks he's much bigger than he is and loves to wrestle just as much with a 100 pound dog as he does dogs his own size, if not more. We're thankful he doesn't bark and hasn't chewed up our apartment, though we're still working on the potty training.
We have also kept busy as Cubmaster and Assistant Cubmaster for New York City Cub Scout Pack 527. We spend our Friday nights with about 6 cub scouts every week with activities ranging from picnic/sports days in Central Park to going to Grand Central Station and the Metropolitan Transit Museum. During the month of November the boys prepared kits to put in with Thanksgiving dinners that we helped package and deliver to needy families in New York City. It has been interesting to try and plan Cub Scout activities in such a big city, but we've really enjoyed it and the opportunities for service it has brought.
We are looking forward to 2009 and all of the joy and blessings it will bring. We hope you all have had an enjoyable 2008 and are enjoying the Season as much as we are. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
John and Jane Smith*

I was so touched, almost moved to tears by the beauty in their update. My response as follows:

Hi John,
Thanks for the card and the update. You and Jane give me hope that happiness in marriage is possible. As corny as that sounds, I think you know that living in LA makes one quite pessimistic and hearing about your life and successes really inspired me to aspire for more in my own life. I am SOOOO happy for you guys and an odd big smile came across my face as I read your e-mail and an overall sigh of awwww that kinda reflects the sentiment of ... "Man!, that is so freaking adorable! I am so happy and jealous all at once and I hope I too can have that type of happiness one day!"
Though I have never met your new wifey, you guys are a beautiful couple and I wish you guys the best for the new year. I hope you guys decide to come back to LA for more adventures and congratulations on everything - life, love, work, New York experiences, your new adroable (but I can't believe you guys dressed it up!) dog and baby!!! Take care and best wishes for the holiday season. Merry Christmas eve!!!

This was December 24, 2008. On June 10, 2009, I wrote John a letter with the subject entitled "Ummm... guess what"

So.. I was in San Jose for a mini-rotation. And while I was there.. I started investigating the Church. Yes.. the same one you go to. And then... I am unsure why.. I gave up drinking. And then... I got some answers. And then.. I started living my life according to the commandments. And then.. I kept going to Church. Then I actually discovered the singles ward (much more fun than the family ward but same spirit everywhere). Then I went to Vegas and didn't drink. And then I got more answers. And then I knew it was true.
about 2 months later.. I am getting baptized this Saturday and wanted you to hear it from me first! It's a bit crazy especially given how much I love drinking but what can I say.. it's the true Church. =D
Hope you all are doing amazing and all the best! Oh.. if you guys are ever bored.. I started blogging about my spiritual journey.

His response was:

Daisy!! I'm so extremely excited and happy for you! And so angry at myself!
Let's go with the happy first. What an amazing story and journey you've been on. I have to confess I took a major break from work to read all about it and became completely engulfed. I had no idea you had gone to San Jose or that you had begun "investigating" = ). I'm full of oh so many questions. How did it start? Did you find it on your own, or did someone introduce you? What singles ward are you going to? How is your family taking everything?
Now to the angry part. One of the most frustrating things you'll find with the gospel is that you have this knowledge. A knowledge that tells you there's a purpose to all of this, there's a plan for each of us individually, that God loves each of us individually and that families are oh so much more than just what we've been stuck with. Families mean everything and are a means to enable us to learn correct and righteous principles and develop along our journey in life. This knowledge that we have is so extremely important, and what we need to know to ensure happiness beyond this life. Such a knowledge is also a burden, as I'm sure you're learning. Growing up in Utah, almost every single person I came in contact with either shared the same beliefs as me, or had at some point. Then I went to USC and faced a completely different world than I had ever faced before. I too, received question after question on my beliefs. Temptation after temptation - c'mon just one time/drink won't hurt. We won't tell, etc., etc. This time strengthened my testimony completely and was a time of tremendous growth for me (as are most times of adversity, it's just not much fun when you're going through it).
Anyway, my friends accepted me for who I was and eventually became the ones to stick up for me and answer for me when someone would offer something they knew I couldn't have - going even so far as to protect me from "magic brownies" someone offered me when I had no idea what was in them, just as one example. During my years at USC and living in L.A. ever since, I obviously developed many friendships and relationships that weren't with members of the church. In fact, my inner-circle became mostly non-members. So, now to the frustrating part. You develop these close friendships with people and care for them deeply and wish that they could share the same knowledge you have so that they could be happy forever, not just the moment. It's hard in a work environment, or many times with friends to even build up the courage to broach such a topic, but at the same time, it's the most important thing we could share with them. So in comes the frustration. And we never know when someone is ready/willing to know more.
So, I guess we have to be more brave and know that we're really doing a disservice to people by not sharing this most important thing with them. Take you for example, how much sooner could you have experienced all that you are experiencing if I had just opened my mouth? Now we never really know what circumstances are ideal, but I could have at least given you something. There's something to be said for living a good life and trying to be an example, but I realize I need to speak up more. When you e-mailed me awhile ago, I think after we found out Jane was pregnant and talked about happiness and your life and how that's what you wanted in your life, I could tell you were searching. Oh how badly I just wanted to say, "You can have it! I know a way!" Then I start to think how pompous that must sound to people and how odd people think my religion is and I don't end up doing anything, so that's obviously something I need to work on.
Wow, you just made me so excited. I wish we could be there this weekend. And I'm sure the missionaries have already warned you, and I can speak from experience from 2 years of being on a mission - the next few days are going to be the hardest yet. I hope they're not, but typically that's when the adversary works the hardest. He knows you're about to do this amazing, wonderful thing and he wants you to be miserable and will do anything to prevent it from happening. Cars breaking down, flat tires, burst pipes, accidents, work nightmares, temptation, etc. I've seen it all! It only made me realize how true the gospel is everytime something like that would happen because you can see how hard the adversary is working to prevent it.
Okay, I'll stop my rambling, but I couldn't be more excited for you. Please let us know if there's anything we can do for you. The questions from friends will continue to come. Until someone feels what you have felt, they will never completely understand. The church is true and God wants us all to return to live with him. You are about to receive the most important gift you will ever receive - the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let me know how everything goes and send pictures! Here's one of our little girl, who I can't believe is already 7 weeks old (her hair is only growing down the middle currently, so we give her a curlhawk)! We thought this one was funny because it kinda turned out like a headshot, which completely wasn't the intention.
Thanks for sharing your experience - I know these are deeply personal experiences and it can only help others, too! Please don't hesitate to ask if you need anything!

I never asked John if I could share this, so I do it anonymously butwith the hope that the simple message of being a good example and not being afraid to sometimes approach the awkward .. wanna come to Church with me question is okay. Plus, this is is something I completely relate to now. I want my non-LDS family and friends to also know what I now know without being the religious fanatic trying to push doctrine down everyone's throats. Alas, I will be patient. I will live my life according to His commandments and hopefully the blessings I receive will touch them as hearing about John's certainly touched mine cuz you never know when someone is watching, I know I was.

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