I have been so blessed to have been born and raised in the Gospel. What a gift it was to have been sent to parents whose testimonies had already been set in stone. Their faith has always been unfaltering.
I wasn't a rebellious teenager. How could I be? I was diagnosed with cancer a month before I turned 17 and started my first treatment the day after my birthday. It was during that time that I gained my own testimony. I had a closer relationship with my Father in Heaven during that time than I'd ever had.
Two years after I was declared to be in remission, I relapsed. The odds were very much against my survival this time; I was FILLED with cancer. I was so incredibly sick. But this time I had my own testimony to draw upon. While my parents' faith was still going to get me through, now we were all armed with it. And after an amazing blessing from my former bishop (and another former bishop who died of cancer a year later), I started the 7 months of chemotherapy knowing I'd beat this cancer again.
And I did.
I finished my treatments three years to the day after I was diagnosed the very first time. I was now almost twenty. I'd had cancer twice. Looking back, it's almost as if I opened my eyes on the day I was no longer a teenager and really began my life. I was cancer free. I was living in a new place. My dad was about to be my bishop. My mom and I were best friends. It was a great time in my life.
I met and married my first husband. We were married in the temple. We had two kids. We were best friends. Life really was good.
I don't think that what happened next can be understood unless you first understand how much I had been blessed.
Seven years after I got married (eight years after I "opened my eyes") I chose to give it all up. I chose to say, "thank you, Heavenly Father, for all You've done for me. For my good health, my beautiful babies, my really nice husband. But I'm going to take a pass for now."
My husband and I split up, and I went down a path for the next several months that was in the complete opposite direction as the path I'd been on my whole life. I went from one end of the "spiritual spectrum" to the exact other end.
My actions led me to a disciplinary court, where it was explained to me that if I were to change my ways, right then, and recommit myself to the Lord, I would be able to keep my membership. I know the church doesn't like to excommunicate people. I know the Lord works in ways of love, not punishment.
But I made the decision to throw it all away.
I was surprised at how much it really did affect me. At that point in my life I really thought I didn't need the Lord. I didn't need the church. I was "happy". But as I walked home from the church I cried and cried.
I had already felt the absence of the . I wasn't as patient with my kids as I had once been. I was glad to have them be with their dad because I knew he was a much better parent for them than I was. Things weren't going well at my job. I was angry and hostile to my ex-husband when, really, he hadn't done anything wrong. But having it be official, having the bishop tell me I was excommunicated just rocked me.
I went on with my life. I continued down that path for a time. But eventually that got old. I was ready to settle down again. I'd already changed my ways with my kids. I was back to being the kind of mom they needed. I had a new and much better job. I still was completely inactive but in my heart I still believed.
I met Tavis and married him 9 months later in May, 2006. He's the love of my life.
The following Thanksgiving, my dad had a heart attack. He didn't die, but it shook me. A month or so after his heart attack he came to me and showed me a piece of paper. It was a list of all of his kids with our birthdates, date of sealing for my oldest sister, and our baptism dates. But next to my name it was blank. Blank. I was a blank line! He told me he wanted, more than anything, for that line to be filled in before he died.
Well, absolutely. Who knew how much time he had left? The chances of another heart attack after a first are really good. So I decided it was time. After several meetings with my bishop we got it figured out that I could be re-baptized. And the only thing it was really going to require of me was that I go to church. Everything else in my life was back within the Gospel standards. We decided it would be the same day my 8-year old daughter was baptized, but an hour before hers as not to take anything away from her special day.
Boy, did the adversary work on me! Tavis and I fought more than we ever had. I didn't want to go to church. It was so easy to find reasons not to go. But I knew why I was having those feelings. And I did my best to ignore them.
At my reinstatement council the bishopric took a long time to deliberate. Longer than I thought should be necessary, frankly. I knew I was ready. Why were they having such a hard time figuring it out?
My bishop came out of his office and told me he'd forgotten to give me the baptismal interview. (I'm not kidding.) After the interview he was quiet. He finally said, "Do you think we're rushing this?"
My heart sank. I couldn't believe he was saying this. I had enough faith, though, to know that if he wasn't getting the confirmation he needed from the Lord then I'd just have to wait. But I this is what I told him:
"The only thing we're rushing is the paper-work. (Because of my wanting to do it the same day as my daughter.) During the last five years my life has gone down every possible road. But my faith, my testimony, has never faltered. I've never stopped believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not one time. I most certainly stopped living it, but I never stopped loving it. My faith is not being rushed. My readiness is not being rushed. All that's being rushed is getting it down on paper."
So he went back in with his counselors and they deliberated again. He called me back in and delivered the most poignant speech I'd ever been given. He said, "Thank you for giving the Spirit time to work. I went from being unsure about your readiness to knowing without question that this is the time for you to be re-baptized. I'm not sure why it's now, but I received revelation that the Lord needs you back now. That NOW is the time for you. I know that in time it will be revealed to us just how important the timing of this is, but for now I just know that it's not by accident that you've chosen now to come back."
Wow. I was speechless.
Which was OK because one of the counselors had this to add: "First, I want to thank you for your courage. It can't have been easy to come and meet with four men you barely know (this was the first time I'd even laid eyes on this man), and put your faith in us. So, thank you. Next, I want to tell you that I've got a general testimony that God loves everyone. But tonight I received a testimony that God loves you. And I'm so thankful to have been in on this council so that I could gain that testimony."
So I was baptized the following Saturday. People kept asking if I was so excited??? And the correct answer, of course, was YES!!! But really? No. Because I didn't feel like anything was going to change. But as was pointed out to me by a friend, the commitment would be stronger. And she was right. I was wrong to have down-played it so much. I didn't want a big thing. Your first baptism is something to celebrate, not your second. But when the day came, I was truly EXCITED!!! (And not just because my sisters had come from out of town to be there!) I came out of the water feeling a lot like I did on my 20th birthday. My life was really going to begin. Again.
I've got a beautiful baby boy now. And what I want next is to be sealed to him. But for now, I'll bask in the peace that having the Holy Ghost back in my life has given me. I'll never take that peace for granted again. I'll never let my Heavenly Father down again. My faith is renewed. My commitment is stronger than ever.
And my life is right where I want it to be!
Amber is the youngest of seven children and as such has basically had everyone dancing attendance on her night and day for her entire life. Oh, and it's possible that also had something to do with the fact that she has had cancer twice, the first time when she was sixteen. This explains why her big sister, DeNae, is writing her bio. All she had to do was whine, "Boo hoo. I can't write a bio," and big sis jumped in to fix everything like always. At any rate, despite this unfortunate family arrangement, Amber has turned out delightfully normal. She's a great mom, a great sister, a great daughter, and a great friend. She is also, without question, the funniest member of her family, as well as being the easiest to love. Her four-year field trip from activity in the church has been chalked up to alien abduction, and her family is thrilled that the UFO returned her essentially intact, except for this crazy glowing finger thing and a tendency to sing Neil Diamond songs when under stress. Amber blogs at Tavis & Amber. We love you Amber!