Friday, November 18, 2005

Me Autobio Matey!


My directional choice for this autobiography was effortless; Religion all the way. How has religion influenced my life?
My answer to that question is a resounding, “every move I make, every breathe I take.” (Thanks Sting.)

As you know, I am Mormon. I got my early start in Utah. I say early because I was super-preemie! Dun da da dah!!! Dawn was born 3 months early because she didn’t know what to do with her bad self in the “pre-existence.” Upon arrival on the hospital table, the nurses and doctors quickly rushed me away from my parents to wire me up like a Russian spy. I’d clocked in at 2 lbs. and began dropping in bodyweight. At this point every tenth of an ounce was crucial, and when I hit 1 lb 10 ounces the staff began to tell my parents it was fruitless to make any homecoming plans in my behalf (besides the very possible eternal one.)

My dad being a convert to the church at age 19, is like a spiritual rock, and loves telling the story that follows. I was about a week old. My condition was not improving. My dad scooped my doll-sized body into one hand, anointed the crown of my head with “consecrated oil” with the other, and proceeded to give me the “priesthood blessing” that saved my life. The days that followed this blessing were filled with positive change in my condition, and as you can guess I survived. I became known as the “miracle baby.” I owe my beginnings to God.

Three months later I was given a name and a blessing during my first weeks at church. I’m sure my father, who gave the blessing, asked for faithfulness and strength to serve me well throughout my life and keep me close to the faith. I grew up singing primary songs about Jesus, learning about his life and how I could emulate Him.

At age 8 I was baptized. It was a day my primary teachers and parents had prepared me for several years in advance. This day was huge for me (mainly because at that age it meant having an after party with friends and family.) My father baptized me. One of his most prized possessions to this day is a frame sheltering 4 pictures, one of each of his children and he dressed in white on our baptism days. I remember after my baptism, my long hair, still wet and sticking to the back of my dress. My dad, bishop and a few other men from my “ward” surrounded me as I sat in front of the group of attendee’s, placed their right hands gently on my head resting their left hands on the shoulder of the brother to his left and my father offered up a conformational-prayer inviting the Holy Ghost to be a constant guide and companion throughout my life. I do remember in that moment, forgetting briefly the visions of cake and presents that were incessantly prancing through my head, and instead of anticipation, a feeling of warmth filled my little soul. I felt good about the decision I had made to be baptized.
In addition to this, family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evenings are a staple of life in my household. Ever since I can remember, these activities have been woven into my home-life becoming as commonplace as brushing my teeth and sleep. My mom taught me how to read using the scriptures. To this day, we have scripture study bright and early every morning at 7am. The only exception to this rule was during high school, when for 4 years I attended early-morning seminary at my local church building, studying from the “standard works” (New Testament, Old Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants) one each year.
Throughout my life my mom would occasionally tell me she had a strong impression I would serve a mission. (For girls this opportunity comes at age 21.) I had had my religion spoon fed to me my whole life without truly searching it out and asking important questions such as, “Do I really believe the same stuff my parents do?” At some point I began to feel a bit rebellious.

I went through a period of time between the ages of 17 to 20 where I stopped caring about church. Even though I continued to go on Sundays my heart wasn’t in it. I got into clubbing with some friends from work, picked up a couple bad habits, thank goodness illegal drugs wasn’t one of them. I remember being at a party and most of the people there were doing tabs. An acquaintance of mine said she’d split one with me and I am SO glad I didn’t do it. If I hadn’t had a sense of eternity instilled in me at birth I might be tripping on a flashback right now.

When I hit 20 I had a huge revelation. Simply put: I was not happy. I had let myself slip into spiritual bareness. I was distant towards my family and had a lot of anger inside. It was time for reform.

One morning I was having trouble sleeping. I took my blanket and pillow with me to the living room and sat down by the floor heater. It was particularly quiet that morning. I watched the wind rustled the leaves outside creating a kaleidoscope of shadows against our wall through the lace curtains. My head was clear and that’s when I was given a very clear message. It was like written text sailing past me as if secured to the back of an invisible jet plane. The words read, “You are going on a mission.” No! I exclaimed inwardly. That would make my parents way happier than I’m comfortable with. But the message was loud and clear. I knew that morning my mom’s wish was going to come true and she would be the last to know.
I began to make changes in my lifestyle. I started putting my heart into church, reading my scriptures, praying, weeding out my CD collection (kissed Sublime goodbye.L) I went to talk to my bishop and told him about my decision to go on a mission. There’s a lot of paperwork that needs filling before a person can receive a mission call from whoever the current prophet is at the time. I had to get a physical, have my wisdom teeth pulled, fill out a bunch of paperwork, etc. After all this was done I sent the completed packet off to Salt Lake. Weeks later a great white envelope arrived at my door. It was my mission call. I was called to serve in the Adelaide Australia Mission.

Before a person leaves for the mission field they go to the temple and receive what is called an “Endowment” or gift of knowledge pertaining to the journey back to God. In the temple we make several promises to live our lives according to the gospel guidelines- really it’s just an extension of the promises we make when we’re baptized, to follow Christ, and an extension of how we’re already supposed to be living our lives before we enter the temple.

I left on my mission in June of 1999, with a return date of December 2000, which was extended to January 2001 upon approval of my request. What transpired between those two dates altered my life completely. My mission was a humbling experience, cubed. I felt like an insect that had been freshly stepped on and somehow had managed to survive the incredible impact.

Coming home presented me with another huge struggle. I had forgotten how to be a civilian. I had completely lost myself. I was eating, breathing, and sleeping missionary work, and now that I wasn’t a missionary anymore I had a problem figuring out how to Be. I guess it could be comparable to Empty Nest Syndrome. One becomes so consumed by a certain way of life and when that way stops, restructuring needs to take place. Since, I have become obsessed with reaching balance in my life.

This brings us to my current state.

I have a rich foundation lain by faithful parents. I have come to many conclusions in the first quarter of my life. As I see it, life presents us with two choices. We can choose to gratify ourself and/or help those outside ourselves find happiness and satisfaction, thereby increasing our own satisfaction. I believe God would have us become selfless. The gospel teachings point towards selflessness. The words I speak the actions I take, the way I dress, everything I do… Not a day goes by that I am not strongly influenced by my convictions.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

what an incredible autobiography! thanks for sharing with us!