So I made that decision. I was baptized March 22, 2002. What a wonderful day. Tim thought I was a bit off my rocker but was totally supportive. Mark and Gary made the trip with a few of their kids and finally I met my gospel mentors. If I hadn't known it before, I knew it then, these were my brothers. I'm convinced we were in the same family in our premortal life. They found me here and taught me and Mark baptized me. Gary spoke at the baptism. It was wonderful. I was sure that after I left the water I was glowing. I felt an overwhelming warmth and most of all. I felt love. I felt wrapped in my Savior's arms. He was pleased with my decision and I knew it.
The next day I was confirmed in church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. I also partook of the sacrament for the first time. At this point I had been attending church since January. I had never taken sacrament. I didn't feel worthy. I remember my first day at church. True to form, Mark and Gary called the bishop and let him know that I would coming. I sat in the parking lot of the church that first Sunday scared to death. What was I getting myself into? I called Mark and told him that I just couldn't do it. He calmly talked me into giving it a try. I mustered up the nerve and walked through the door. There was Bishop Carver with this big smile on his face. He said "You must be Tonya Kelley, we've been expecting you. Welcome" He then introduced me to a lady he called Sister Cottam. She wrapped me in her arms and ushered me over to sit by her. It was like she had known me for years. I sat down and had this odd feeling of coming home. I knew this was where I was supposed to be.
I made it back the next Sunday and was sitting in Relief Society when in walked this gal that looked as uncomfortable as I felt. She came over and sat down by me and we started talking. Her name was Holly and she and her family had just moved back to the area after being in Washington State for several years. Little did I know at the time but this person and her family would be my rock. We would grow as close as sisters and her family would become my church family. From that time on we sat together at church. They took me in as one of theirs. I can't even begin to tell you how this helped me. I am 100% positive that I would not have made it to where I am now without them. They missed me if I didn't come. They truly cared for me. They stood by me every step of the way. My baptism, my son, my son's surgery, my dad's death, my mom's death, when I went through the temple for myself and everything else to this point.
It's hard to explain how hard it was to keep going. To just get to church each week. Early on I heard a talk where a awesome lady (who knows who she is) said "You can't go inactive in 7 days". When things were hard I kept repeating this to myself. Just get to church. Do the little things and you will make it. I am living proof that having a good friend (and her family) and a calling make all the difference to a convert. Often, had it not been for one or more of these things I wouldn't have made it. I would have stopped. It would have been so easy. Just stop going. Stop tithing. Stop it all. It would have been much easier. But I was different, I had changed. A mighty miracle had occurred in my heart. I was no longer the person I was before. I know knew the pure joy that the gospel can bring. The direction it gives.
I stuck it out. Tim joined a year ago and we will be going to the temple in 9 short days. What a miracle it has all been. What a wild up and down roller coaster. Some days I was far from the path and the rod and others I was wrapped tight around it. How do I thank my Heavenly Father for this life he has given me. What words are sufficient? I don't have them but he knows how I feel. Even when I'm wandering around a little to far from the path, he knows.
By the way, Mark and Gary will be here again for our sealing. They were here for my baptism, my temple trip, Tim's baptism and now they will see it all come to fruition. Our little family will be sealed together for time and eternity.
What will we do for an encore after that? :o)