Remember that cute little “Footprints” poem by Flavia Weedn?
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.
My dads have this hand stitched in a frame in the bathroom.
This last year, my life has been blessed because of those people. Most people might have to wait an entire lifetime to meet the people who will leave footprints on their heart; I got to meet them in a year. The missionaries are obvious; they played the most direct and most immediate role in my decision to be baptized, but I needed real people. I was searching for the kind of truth that I knew only real people, who were really living the Gospel, could give me.
I needed to talk to members.
I found them and they changed me. I want to talk specifically about Jessica C, the most amazingly passionate and compassionate woman and Relief Society President in my first ward; Natalie H, the only person I know bold enough to really call me out and tell me the things I need to hear; Marie J, the woman, wife, mother, disciple I someday hope to become; and Maren H, a women with whom I share a special connection that I believe is my lifeline in the church. These four women each have a unique quality and have taught me amazing and important lessons in the year that I’ve known them, and my testimony is stronger because of their hand in my life. I will dedicate a post to each of them.
Today, I want to tell you about Maren.
I met Maren the second Sunday in my new ward in Olathe. My first week in Relief Society left me missing my first ward (L1W) and feeling lonely and without friends. I had grown used to the sister missionaries sitting with me and I had come to know and love the families in L1W. I felt a little bit like running back to them. On my second week, Maren taught the lesson. If I remember correctly, I believe her lesson was on the Relief Society motto, “Charity Never Faileth.” Her lesson was about what it meant to live a life of charity. What is it? What is Christ-like love? How can we live that? Her lesson was awesome. It was a real life “how to do this” lesson on themes that were still abstract and new for me. I thought about her and her lesson all week and I was so excited to see her the next week at church.
Week three in Olathe, church was awesome. I remember how strongly I felt the Spirit and how happy I was to be there. In Relief Society, Maren poked me and said, “I’m your visiting teacher!” I was so excited! I barely knew her, but I knew I could trust her. And in this new ward with new people, that was big.
Maren is special to me for many reasons, but also because she gets where I’m coming from. She was the first person with whom I didn’t have to go through my whole story to explain why this was all hard. One day, I went to have lunch with her and Heather J, and they asked about my story. I started the only way I knew how: I left the Catholic Church because my dads are gay. I was gearing up to rehash everything and I was exhausted just thinking about it.
Maren looked at me, smiled with eyes that knew my whole story and said, “So is my sister.”
I don’t know how else to explain this, but imagine holding your breath for three weeks. Imagine then, how it must fee to finally breathe. The sigh of relief from hearing those words … well, it was like that.
After that enormous release of weeks of built up anxiety over my baptism and move to a new ward, I asked her questions I was dying to know. “HOW DO YOU DO IT?” I wanted to know how she understood her relationship with her transgendered and lesbian sister in the context of being Mormon. As for me, I knew the Gospel was true, and I knew my family was true. I just didn’t know how or if the two were true together, and I needed help figuring that out.
Maren’s response was as honest and as beautiful as I could have hoped for. She also taught me a lesson about personal revelation. She told me, “I just know. I prayed about it and I know.” She told me that knowing it for herself, even if other people didn’t know it, was all she needed. I asked her how she felt when other people made comments about homosexuality in church. She told me that she depends on her testimony of Heavenly Father’s love for all of His children and does her best to educate people when they make insensitive comments. These words were not new to me. The concepts, I had learned them before. It just meant something completely different coming from someone who was doing the exact same kind of spiritual work that I was starting.
Of the many things we all discussed that day at Maren’s house, her lesson on personal revelation has never left me. She made it clear to me that even though she doesn’t have all the answers, she knows that what she knows is enough. Somehow, I would have to find a way to let me testimony and my understanding of my family be enough for me.
I’ve known Maren for only 7 months, but in this time she has also taught me another humbling and comforting lesson. She shows me that there are other families like mine. I submit that it is all too easy for me to him and haw about how hard I have it, what with being the Mormon child of gay parents. “IT’S NOT FAIR! MY FAMILY IS COOL TOO!” Yadda yadda. It’s easy for me to present and think of myself as if I’m the only person in the entire church with a gay family. Meeting and becoming friends with Maren has humbled me. There is comfort in her solidarity and in the knowledge that I can be a faithful Mormon and a faithful daughter (if anything, the former has taught me how to do the latter better), because one requires the other.
Maren, you are an amazing friend. You have shown me that there is space for me and my family in this church and in Heaven. While I wish I knew you before all of this, I’m so grateful that our Heavenly Parents brought us together when They did. I needed you to be my friend in Relief Society and I needed you to be one to understand my story. The first time you shared your testimony of Heavenly Father’s love for your sister is my lifeline in the church. There are times when my testimony is shaken and there is comfort in knowing I can ask for yours as a backup.
Also, dear readers, she has the five cutest and squishiest kids on the planet. She also loves Oreos more than any other person I know.
So much love,