One of the things that I have really enjoyed about going back to work outside of my home is the opportunity to interact with people that are not of my faith. In Page, the vast majority of my closest friends were LDS women in the throes of raising their LDS families. In our small town of about 7000-8000 people, there were five wards (congregations) Here in Amarillo, a town of about 200,000 with 4 wards, being a Mormon is more of a novelty.
I recently had an interesting conversation with one of my new co-workers that I had a lot of mixed emotions about. At first it was kind of scary, but ultimately very faith affirming and positive. The women who occupies the cubicle next to mine is a delightful woman named Janet. She had retired from Amarillo School District and has now come to work for the education center. She has been divorced for more than 20 years, loves to quilt, and dotes on her grandkids that live here in town. I adore her. She is also pretty religious. Many times as we have been getting to know each other better, I have felt her deep commitment to living a Christian life. I don't know which church she attends, but she is certainly devout.
So, one afternoon we were chatting as I shared with her the fact that I would be traveling to a memorial service in April for my Grandma that passed away in January. This led to inquiries about who in my family would be there and the like. I should insert here a note that I have had several occasions to describe the make-up of the family that I grew up in, including the number of siblings I have. I still have to catch myself and adjust when saying, "three brothers, two sisters". It still sounds weird. People have no idea the inner turmoil they have caused when they ask about our family demographics. Anyway, we started talking about siblings and our relationships with them. She talked a lot about a brother that she had struggled to have a relationship with in recent years because of his conversion to Buddhism. Without much forethought, almost to my own surprise, I started talking about Debbie/Weston. I usually avoid this topic if at all possible. Not because of embarrassment, but rather to avoid sensationalism or salaciousness. Unless people really know Weston and our family, I feel like it is a difficult matter to explain without sounding titalating.
Janet was naturally surprised and very gracious when I told her about our family struggles over the last several years. She got the cliffnotes version, but the most interesting part of the conversation wasn't really about Weston at all. I found that as I explained the unfolding of the events leading to where we all are now, I was able to share many aspects of my beliefs as a Latter Day Saint. Janet is always very careful to be respectful and appropriate, and obviously wanted to understand without being intrusive. We talked about things like the Plan of Salvation, the nature of our spirits, showing Christian love, the role of the Savior and the Atonement, lots of good stuff. I felt like if nothing else, our conversation gave her a real understanding that I am a Christian too, just like her. We share a lot of common beliefs.
When I came home from work that day, I told Theo that I was so excited to have had a missionary experience that day at work, but also how surprising it was in the way that it came about. As I tried to recount the things that were said, I was unable to articulate it in the same way that I had earlier. I suppose that is the way the Spirit works. He lends us the words we need when we need them.
Although I still have a lot to work through with the relationship I have with Weston, I am grateful that I have made a new realization. The experiences that we have had over the last several years have only stengthened my testimony, and they have given me a greater depth of understanding of a lot of gospel principles. I guess you never know what your struggles will bring, and you never know when or even how you will have a chance to share your testimony.