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For Those of You Who Don't Know Me
A brief history of me and my family before the spiritual storm
My mom grew up in St. Helens, Oregon, the only girl in her family, and was raised in the Church. My dad was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa and moved to Stockton, California when he was ten. He was taught about God as a youth, but didn’t have a set religion. When he was in the Air Force, Dad met some Mormons and was really impressed by their faith and standards, so he joined the church.
My parents met later when they were serving as missionaries in the West Mexican Mission. There may or may not have been some flirting between Sister Kearsley and her Supervising Elder when they built a sandcastle together. After their missions, they both went to BYU, dated and then married in September 1964 in the Salt Lake Temple.
And then came the babies. Two boys and five girls. I’m number five. I spent much of my childhood outside playing with friends, riding bikes, climbing trees, making up adventures, playing games and building forts. At dusk my mom would holler out the front door, "It's time to come home!!!" And we'd all come running home for dinner.
One of my older sisters, Elizabeth, was born with severe intellectual disabilities. Her body developed typically, but her mentality was at a one-year-old level, and she had severe epilepsy. Our family life centered around her care and through that we learned about pure love, sacrifice and being accepting of all people.
Mom and Dad had strong testimonies and raised us in the church. We were taught about God and Jesus Christ from a young age and we still remember Dad’s stick-figure chart of the Plan of Salvation. Each Monday we had Family Home Evening (FHE), with lessons, or outings to the swimming pool and of course, treats. Sundays, the Sabbath, was for attending church, home teaching, naps and watching the Muppet Show. Each year before school started, Dad put on his white shirt and tie, put his calloused hands on our head and gave each of us a “beginning of the school year” blessing. Dad took his role as the Priesthood holder in our home very seriously.
Our family loved being a part of Springfield II Ward - a fun, strong, loving community of people. Each Sunday we went to church and all nine of us sat on the second pew for sacrament meeting. How we all survived that, I don’t know. I believed everything I was taught at church and was determined to be obedient to all of the commandments. When I was eight years old, I was baptized and confirmed a member of the church. I belted out “I’m a Mormon, yes I Am!” in Primary, and “I Walk By Faith” in Young Women’s. During my childhood and youth years, I was busy with all kinds of church functions: weekly youth activities, early-morning seminary, roadshows, service projects, dances and Girls Camp. I had many personal spiritual experiences that gave me strength during the challenging parts of being a teenager and made lifelong friends.
After high school, I attended one year at Southern Oregon University, then went to BYU, where I majored in graphic design. In the middle of my university studies, I served a mission in San Diego, California. After my mission, I went back to BYU, and finally graduated in 1997. I really wanted to be closer to my family again, so I moved to Portland and worked in several graphic design and marketing jobs. I attended the Tanasbourne Singles Ward and that's where I met my husband. We became friends and started dating when I asked him to go to the opera with me. We got married in January of 2001. When I had our first child, Aster, I stopped working outside the home and focused on being a stay-at-home mom. Gabe came along in 2006.
As my kids grew up, I taught them about the gospel, that God loved them, and that we should be kind to others. We went to church, held FHE regularly, said a prayer before each meal, taught them about tithing and restricted Sunday screen time to Veggie Tales. I tried my best to pray and read scriptures daily on my own and attend the temple regularly. My husband and I both served in various callings like Sunday School teacher, Cub Scouts leader, financial clerk and organist. I made wonderful friends at church and felt very supported there.
Both of my children chose to be baptized when they were eight years old and I was so proud of them, but church on Sundays was hard. Gabe, who was not yet diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, did not do well with sitting for so long and he struggled to be engaged in the learning, even though his teachers were always patient with him. Aster, also not yet diagnosed, didn’t really care about church but went because that’s just what we did each Sunday. To be honest, I struggled with my children’s attitude about church because I wanted so badly for them to have their own spiritual experiences and positive connections that I had growing up. And frankly, I was worried about their lack of interest in the church. How would my kids make it through life without a closeness to God? What if they aren’t exactly obedient? Am I failing as a Mormon mother? What if they don’t want to go to BYU?
Around November 2014, when my spiritual challenges began, Aster was 11 years old and Gabe was 8. I was 43 and served in the Girls Camp Directorship. My spouse was a youth Sunday School teacher. And then he read the church essays.
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