Stories in this episode: After a close call with a missile in their homeland of Lebanon, Nazar and his family move to a new country where “home” continues to elude him until a fortuitous introduction changes everything; Audra’s urgent feeling to put down roots after a recent move to North Carolina unexpectedly leads her back to the spiritual home she'd left years before.
This episode is sponsored by TOFW.
To see pictures, and find links mentioned in this episode, go here.
To find out more about the themes we're developing for upcoming episodes, follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook :)
KaRyn Lay: Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host, KaRyn Lay.
For anyone who might not recognize it, today's theme comes directly from the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz. After a harrowing journey through dark woods and narrowly escaping the sleepy poppy fields along the yellow brick road, and then finding her voice after a whirlwind adventure into glitzy city life, Dorothy has a choice to make: Should she stay in the bright lights of Oz, or should she go home to the black and white world of Kansas? In the end, the call of home and Auntie Em wins out. While I know I can't be the only one whose childhood was slightly marred by those flying monkeys and shriveling feet under the tornado house, I also know that I'm not the only one who found comfort in that moment. That moment when Dorothy realizes she only has to click her heels together three times and repeat the phrase, "There's no place like home" to be transported back to her Kansas farm. The truth is that now, as a 42-year-old adult human being, I sometimes, like Dorothy, wonder where I am and how exactly did I get here? I can be filled with a sense of not quite belonging to my surroundings, just like she did in that technicolor Land of Oz. Maybe you've felt that too. I sometimes wish I owned a pair of Ruby Slippers or a Star Trek transporter or something that has the ability to send me off in the direction of home with little more than a blink of an eye. Sometimes that home that I'm longing for takes the shape of the Keystone state and hills covered in trees. And sometimes it looks like just doing the dishes with my mom and dad in the kitchen in South Carolina. And sometimes I find that the home and the family that I'm really wishing for, is actually nowhere to be found here on Earth.
Well, today we've got two stories about the way that we define home and the way that home can come to define us. Our first story comes from Nazar for whom the idea of home was always a bit of a moving target. Here's Nazar.
Nazar: One of my earliest childhood memories that I have is when I was five or six years old, playing in the living room with my older sister who was about a year and a half older than me back in Lebanon, where we lived. And while we were playing in our living room, I heard a sound that caught my attention and I looked towards where my dad was, and he was on the balcony of our six-story apartment building that we lived in. And I saw this huge missile fly right by him. And from my viewpoint, it looked like it was going to hit him in the head, but it was probably about five or six feet away from him and hit the building next door and blew up the building next door. And as a five or six-year-old, you can only imagine how I was confused and scared and you know, quickly thereafter, my dad rushing, picking us up and taking us downstairs to the bottom of the building into the bomb shelter. That was my earliest childhood memory that I had—to escape the war that was happening. My mom had already left. She had moved to California and she was doing all the paperwork needed for us to get our visas and so forth so we could also move to California. And I remember my mom used to tell my sister and me stories of how California was amazing and it was beautiful and there's no trash on the streets and people didn't litter. She painted this picture of this euphoric, beautiful place. We moved here and obviously, it was you know, it's definitely cleaner than Lebanon's was, but it still didn't feel like home to me.
My ancestors have been moving around from place to place to find a home, to find a place of refuge and a place of just peace to be able to live for over 100 years. I was taught by my parents and my grandma about the genocide that took place in the early 1900s. Armenians in Armenia were massacred, over a million Armenians were killed. And when that happened, a lot of them obviously, to avoid being killed, were kind of scattered everywhere. And because of that, the Armenian people have been displaced for over 100 years. I remember hearing stories from my grandma that when she was younger because she grew up in that, she was a young kid during the genocide. I believe her father was killed and she had to eat dirt, to try to get some type of nutrients so that she could stay alive while she escaped the genocide and—just horrible experiences and horrible stories that I was told by people that actually lived through it. And so my ancestors went from Armenia to Turkey, from Turkey to Syria, from Syria to Lebanon, and that's where I was born. And my parents emigrated to California. So we just kind of moved around from place to place. And it was really tough learning the English language, and I had no friends and it was just a, you know, like most people that move around, it was a difficult time. I remember I would a lot of times walk home from school. I would notice all the houses around me. We didn't live in a house, we lived in an apartment building. And I would look at these houses and I wonder what the inside looked like. And I would wonder where the kitchen was and how the kitchen looked, and the bedrooms and living room and I wondered who lived there and what type of life they had and always yearning to be able to have that. Just yearning to have a home that symbolized permanence and it symbolized safety and security and comfort.
When I was about 13-years-old, my father informed us that we had a cousin that he knew that had, you know, lived in Fresno, which is up north in California, where—we lived in Southern California. When I was 13, we went and visited her. And I remember as we were driving up, it was a very, very long drive. And we finally got that was excited to be able to be out of the car and they had a pool, so we were swimming in the pool. And for some reason, my sister who was 14-years-old at the time, felt impressed to ask our cousin about God. And to give you a little bit of background on my thoughts on God, at that ripe old age of 13 is that I was always an inquisitive kid. When I saw people that were blown up to pieces back in Lebanon, or just in general when people pass away, I always inquired about or wondered about why we're here? What is the purpose of this life? And I wondered if there was an existence before we came to Earth, and what happens to people when they die? That always puzzled me. And I would ask my parents, I would ask people around me what the purpose of life was. And I would ask these questions, and no one had an answer that made any sense. Now Armenians claim to fame is that they're the first, you know, group of people or you know, nationality to accept Christianity. And so they were staunch Christians, Armenian Orthodox is what the religion was. It's kind of similar to Catholicism. I'd go to church and I'd asked the priests there and I would ask my friends, and all of them what say that I just need to have faith that there was a supreme being, there was a God, and that He could be everywhere and that He could be next to you and He was all-powerful and all-knowing, and it was just so mysterious. It didn't make a lot of sense to me.
And so I've, in my mind, decided that God was just an answer to the unanswerable questions. And what I mean by that is that I just felt like if there was a question that no know the answer to, they would just either blame God or have God be the solution, right? And so I decided that I was going to be an atheist, that I didn't believe in God. When we arrived at my cousin's house, we're playing around, my sister felt prompted to ask my cousin about God. My cousin could have easily given her a one or two-sentence explanation of that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He loves us and we're His children? But she didn't just stop there. She said, "You know, I could explain about God. But I've got two friends that could do a way better job of explaining to you who God is." And so she invited the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to come and have dinner with us that evening. They're pleasant and nice. And the very next day, they wanted to come back and have some missionary discussions. Well, my parents didn't have intentions of staying there for the week, becasue they had to go back to work, but they allowed my sister and I to stay there for that one week so that we could spend some more time with our cousins. Well, while we were there, the missionaries came to the house again and started talking about God. And I quickly told them my opinion on God and how I didn't believe in Him and I thought He was made up. And they, you know, respected my belief and my opinion, and they asked me to just listen to them. But while I was up there, my cousin had a pool and so I had no desire to really listen to what they had to say. I was more, you know, excited as a 13-year-old boy would be, to swim in the pool when it was hot in the summer. So I didn't pay much attention to them there, but after the week, my parents picked us up and brought us back down to Southern California where we live. And those missionaries contacted the missionaries, you know, by where we lived, and those missionaries came to our house. Well, this time I didn't have a pool and so I felt a little more obligated to listen to them. And I told these missionaries that I had no intention of listening to them, that I didn't believe in God. And I thought it was just all phony and fake. Well, these Elders said, "I appreciate you saying that just hear us out, listen to what we have to say about God."
And I said, "Listen, I don't care about God. But if you could answer me this, then I'll listen to you." I said, "What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? Did we exist before we came to earth and what happens after we die?" I didn't care to hear what they had to say because I thought that they would give me the same answer that I'd heard before, that I needed to have faith. So it was kind of my way of just shutting them up and stumping them.
And these missionaries had a very large grin on their face and they said, "Well, actually Nazar, we know the answer to all of those questions."
And I was taken aback and I said, "No you don't."
They said, "We absolutely do."
I said, "Well, tell me!"
They said, "Well, we would love to tell you but that's on lesson number four.
I said, "What are you talking about?" They said, "Well we've got a total of six lessons, and the answer to your questions on in lesson number four. So you'll have to listen to the first three lessons, and then we'll tell you what you want to know."
So I was a little frustrated, but also, for the very first time, I was very interested in what they had to say. For the next couple of weeks, I was able to listen and learn about God, about Jesus Christ and his role as our Savior and our Redeemer. And I learned about the apostasy and about Joseph Smith, and being a 13-year-old boy, his story of him being 14 and searching for the purpose of life and to know which church is true, truly resonated with me. And so I started reading the Book of Mormon. And the missionaries asked me to pray about the truthfulness of all those things that I had been taught. And honestly, I really didn't pray at that time. But the long day finally arrived where I got to learn about the plan of salvation. It was absolutely captivating and amazing to hear all that they said. I was astounded. I was astounded at what it was that detailed, that organized. And they told me this is exactly what life's all about. Life's about being able to return back to Heavenly Father. We're not here to collect as much wealth as we possibly can. We're not here to do anything, but to learn and to grow and become like our Heavenly Father.
And then they told me, they said "Nazar, we want you to pray about what we teach you. Every single principle we teach, we want you to pray and gain a testimony for yourself if these things are true or not." And I remember after hearing those things, I knelt down on my knees at night, and I prayed to Heavenly Father, truly for the very first time, and asked Him if these things were true. And I remember feeling so warm inside. I just felt this burning in my chest. And my body started to tingle a little bit and I got goosebumps. And I just felt and I knew that what I had been taught was true. That the plan of happiness through the plan of salvation is true and that God had, once again, through Joseph Smith restored His church on this earth. And I was so grateful but more than being grateful, I was so happy and ecstatic to finally know why I was on this earth.
Living my life for 13 years being completely in the dark about the purpose of life was a very frustrating 13 years. When I finally had that knowledge, when I finally had the knowledge of why I was here, and to know that Heavenly Father had a plan for me, that I actually mattered, and that Heavenly Father had a plan that I could become like Him. That gave me so much power, so much happiness and joy that I can use that as my foundation to grow on this earth.
I, obviously, listened to the rest of the discussions and my sister and I both were enthusiastic and excited about joining the gospel. In fact, the first day we went to church was kind of a fun experience. I remember walking in and finding it all strange because it's a lot different than a Catholic or an Armenian Orthodox Church. Everyone was so warm, everyone was so inviting and kind and wanted to know my name. And it was such a different experience. It just reaffirmed me how this was where I was supposed to be. So you think that the story was wonderful and ended there, but unfortunately, it didn't. My dad put a stop to all of their missionary efforts. But what had happened is that he had asked a friend of his about the church, because he knew nothing about it. They never sat in any of the discussions we had with the missionaries, they didn't get to hear what we heard. And my dad asked a friend, and that friend knew of a different friend that was a member of the church, apparently, and that person was awful to his wife. He was a shyster when it came to business and was unethical. And so, therefore, because this person was not a nice man, all members of the church were not nice, so it was not a good thing. And therefore my dad said, "You can't go to church anymore. You can't meet with the missionaries anymore. I'm putting a stop to all of this." which was, for me, a devastating thing. I was very upset and frustrated, but I couldn't argue with my dad. I stopped meeting with the missionaries, so did my sister, and a couple of years went by. At 13, I had made it my decision that when I turned 18, that I would get baptized, cause then I wouldn't need my parent's permission. That I'd want to serve a mission for the church because I'd want to let everybody else know what the purpose of life was because I felt like it was such an amazing and important thing for everybody to know. But from 13 to 15, in those two short years, I'd kind of forgotten about the church. I started doing some things that were not the best. My sister, by that point, had her license, becasue she was 16, and we were driving back home and we saw these two missionaries. And all of a sudden I said, "Pull over!" So she pulled over and I got out of the car and I ran to these missionaries. And I think they were kind of afraid of me for a second. They were unsure of who this person was and why I was running towards them. I was excited to see the missionaries because it brought back all those memories that I had when I was 13. It made me remember how much I missed it. And what that represented to me at one point. And I remember—I think I remember—going up to them and telling them, "Hey, my name is Nazar, I've listened to your lessons, I've been to your church. I'm going to get baptized in your church when I'm 18 and serve a mission."
And they said, "Wow, that's fantastic! Can we meet with you today?"
And I said, "No, I'm sorry, you guys can't come to my house. You know, my parents won't let you guys come in. But you know, when I'm 18 I'm gonna join the church."
And they said, "Well, Nazar, we really think we should meet with you." And so we met at a local park a couple of days later, and they started teaching the discussions to me again. They quickly realized that I had remembered most of the things they had taught, and especially about the plan of salvation, because that's the most important thing to me. And they said, "Well Nazar, you need to get baptized."
And I said, "I know, but I can't right now. When I turn 18 in three years, I'll get baptized, and I'll go on a mission when I'm 19."
And they said, "Well, why don't we fast about it?" And I didn't remember what that was. And so they explained to me that if I went without food and water for a 24-hour period, and I prayed to Heavenly Father that he would, you know, potentially help my parents soften their heart, so I could get baptized.
I said, "You're kidding, right? You think that if I go without food and water for 24-hours, that magically my parents are going to be okay with me getting baptized?"
They said, "Well, we believe in fasting. Let's give it a shot." And I said, "All right, that's fine." So the two missionaries and myself picked a day—I think it was the next day or two days after— to go ahead and fast. And so I fasted and I gotta tell you, as a 15-year-old that was not a fun experience for me, but I did it anyway. And after 24 hours, I started eating again and that was the best meal of my life at the time.
And the very next day, I was walking home from school and when I got home, I went inside my bedroom like I normally did to put my stuff down and I saw, to my surprise and shock, all of my clothes ripped up into pieces all over my bed. Now my mom had told me, the beginning of that school year when she bought me all these clothes that she was not happy about the fact that I was dressing the way I was dressing. And she said, if you do anything bad at school, then I'm going to rip all your clothes out and rip your clothes into pieces and I'm gonna buy you the clothes that I want you to wear. Well, I had been skipping school and hanging out with some people that were questionable. You know she had caught me because the school had called her and told her that I was absent again from school. And so she finally got the nerve and cut my clothes into pieces and it was on the bed. When I got in there and I saw that I was so upset. I went to the kitchen, my mom was inside the kitchen, she was cooking dinner, and I went in there and we both went to town. full of yelling at each other and I was very upset with everything she was doing and she was ruining my life. And you know, she was saying that I needed to change my life. And all of a sudden, out of the blue—now she had no idea that I had been meeting with the missionaries again, not even my sister knew I was meeting with them by myself. All of a sudden she said, "Well, I'd rather you go join that dumb Mormon church then do all the stupid things you're doing Nazar.
I said, "Fine!" I stormed off back to my bedroom slammed the door. I sat down in my bed and it just actually dawned on me what just happened. My mom finally gave me permission to get baptized.
I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was very quaint, it was short. Two little talks were given by the missionaries. My nephew, who joined Church at one point in time, was the one that was able to baptize me. I remember when the hands were placed on my head, I was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and was given the Holy Ghost. What I felt inside was just an immense amount of love and peace. Just this clarity to know that I was finally on the right path back to my Heavenly Father. We moved right after that, went to a different ward. I had an amazing time growing up in the church from 15 to 18, and even 19 when I was able to serve my mission. It's kind of interesting, because two months before I turned 19, or two months before I turned my papers in to serve a mission, came a call. The Armenian mission opened up for the very first time. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is it. I speak Armenian. I am Armenian. This is a Schumann, I'm going to get called there. And so when I got my call and then opened it, and it said, I'm going to Brazil, I was kind of shocked and had no idea why I was being sent there. And when I served my mission, I realized that Heavenly Father doesn't care about what language we speak. He doesn't care about where we live on the earth. What he cares about is helping every single one of his spiritual children returned back to him. And obviously, as you can imagine, my favorite lesson was lesson number four, when I was able to teach other people the plan of salvation.
As an adult, the profession that I've chosen is to be a real estate broker. So I help people find homes and sell houses for a living. The reason I love what I do for a living is because it allows me to be able to be a part of that experience that a person has, where they're making a move, and they're looking for that next place. It's interesting that being a part of that process kind of gives me, not the spiritual sense of the moving, finding a place, but at least a little bit of that place of comfort. The meaning of home has changed for me in many different ways now that I have the gospel in my life. Initially, it was all about a physical dwelling. It was a four walls and a roof that gave me that sense of peace and a sense of safety, if you will, from everything that was outside. But when I was introduced to the gospel, I realized that even though the homes that we live in today does give us that safety and it makes us feel at peace, and hopefully, it does, if you live in a home that's like that. But the gospel sheds light and helps us understand that this home on this earth is just really a glimpse that our true home is back with Heavenly Father.
That's what I love about the gospel is that it gives us hope. It gives us clarity about who we are. And that one day, we can all go back and live with Heavenly Father again in our home with him. I think it's interesting that if my ancestors were never displaced if the genocide never took place, if my parents would have never left, my parents would have never come to California. If they'd never come here, trying to escape the wars and displacement of their people to come to find refuge, I would have never been able to be introduced to the gospel. Even though I don't wish upon all the suffering that they went through, I am grateful that their desire to find a home, a physical home, allowed me to find a spiritual home through the gospel Jesus Christ.
KaRyn Lay: That was Nazar. When Nazar and I first spoke, I was totally charmed and delighted by the enthusiasm that he clearly has for helping others find a house of their own. And as he shared even more of his story, I was moved by his deep understanding of the differences between a house and a home. The physical structure of a house is an important symbol of security and freedom and stability and safety. And for the millions of people who've been displaced by natural disasters or war or famines and other types of unrest, and like the Nazar's Armenian ancestors, that symbol is powerful and important to their well-being. And I don't want to minimize that. We cannot underestimate the power that physical space has in cementing our sense of place and belonging. But isn't it amazing that even when his family finally found themselves in a place where some physical stability was possible, the longing for a home didn't cease for Nazar. Not until he found his spiritual home and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our next story of home comes from Audra, who found her home in one of the last places she expected or wanted to find it. Here's Audra.
Audra: I look up and across the field coming from the parking lot, I see this man coming. And the thought that went through my head was, "Oh no, please don't let that be our coach." He keeps walking towards us and sure enough, he stops right at our field and introduces himself as the coach of our children's team. And the reason for my "Oh no," is as he came closer, I realized that he was decked out head to toe and BYU attire. And while this might not seem strange, what you need to know is that I live in North Carolina. And here in North Carolina, we know two blues. We know Duke Blue, and we know Tar Heel blue. If you're not a member of the church, you don't know what BYU blue is. But I did. And so I knew immediately that he was a member of the church. So right then and there, I made the decision that I was going to stay as far away from this coach as I could.
I grew up in what I would consider a pretty traditional house. My dad was the full-time breadwinner. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who got involved with all of the activities that her children were involved with. We were active in our community. We were active at church and I basically just had a really happy childhood. I graduated high school, I packed up and moved out to Utah to go to BYU. I met my husband in a Book of Mormon class and we both graduated from BYU the same year. We got married in the temple and I just kind of figured that's how life went. As we started to get into careers and starting to have a family, the trials started to mount. And while I don't think that anyone actually expects the challenges that come their way, the ones that started come were just things— they'd never even crossed my mind because I didn't really know of anyone struggling with these things. Things like mental health issues and infertility and loss and moving around frequently. Just things that I never planned on. And as these started moving more and more, I felt like the trials, they started becoming more frequent and they started getting harder. At one point, I sank into a really deep depression and suffered really badly with anxiety. My body kind of went into a fight or flight mode where I just really struggled to even get out of bed and make sure that my kids were getting fed each day. And around that same time, I was really starting to struggle with some doctrinal and cultural issues with the church. I hadn't taken a whole lot of time in earlier years to really think about what I believed and how I felt about certain things. But I was kind of at a point in my life where I was spending a lot of time alone at home with two small children and my husband was working really long hours and I didn't have a lot of friends because we were moving pretty frequently. Our average to stay in any one place was 18 months and so I just spent a lot of time by myself, which really made me go into my own head and start thinking about things that I had never considered before. And so I'm dealing with all these questions and issues while I'm in a deep depression, we had just moved to a new place again, and I just didn't want to do it. I couldn't handle having spiritual issues on top of the daily struggles I was already facing. And so I was kind of at a point in my life where I decided to walk away from the church. I just didn't want to do it anymore and I was not interested in staying to fight for answers. I had no plans to come back. I stayed that way for five years.
Flash forward a few years, life continues. We moved again and I had just had our third child. And I was really struggling with feeling lonely in our new place. I had a one-year-old, a six-year-old, and I think my son was nine at the time. And my kids were all really struggling with anxiety and starting at a new school and I was just tired, I was exhausted from all the moving we had done. I was exhausted from having babies and spending so much time alone. And when we moved to our new location, the thought I kept having was, "I just want to put down roots. I want this place to feel like home. I'm tired of always being on the go And I just wanted to make a life here." One of the things that I had done to try and make some friends and put down some roots was I got involved with the PTO board at the elementary school. And so I'm emailing back and forth with another mom that is volunteering with PTO. And at some point in time, we had become friends On Facebook. And so during our email conversation, she asked me, "Hey, how do you know this mutual friend that we had?"
And I emailed her back and said, "Well, she was one of my best friends growing up. We lived right up the street from one another and we hung out almost daily for years."
And she said, "Oh, that's so interesting. She was one of my roommates at BYU." And I just kind of giggled to myself. And then as our conversation via email went on, it came out that I told her, I said, "I am a member, but I have not been actively participating for several years now, and I'm not really interested."
And she said, "Oh, okay, that's fine. I'd still love to, you know, meet up with you and get to know you some time. But if you ever are interested, here's where the building is, and this is what time we meet."
I said, "Okay," and then we just kind of carried on our conversation. So probably about a week later. And at the time, I was teaching group fitness classes at a local gym. And I went in to teach one of my classes one day and a new participant showed up about midway through the class. And so at the end of everything, and everyone was filing out of the room, she came up to introduce herself to me, and we started talking. In the course of our conversation, she tells me that she and her husband had both gone to BYU. And so then I proceeded to tell her "Oh, yeah, that's where I graduated from too." And she asked the next obvious question about if I was a member or not. And again, I told her, I said, "I'm not actively participating and I don't really want to." And she said, "Okay," and then carried on our conversation. So all of this happens. It was less than two weeks time that this was all taking place. And one morning I dropped my children off at school and was driving back home, which is literally a five-minute drive. And I had an experience that I will never forget because it has changed my life. I had the thought, "Maybe I should give it a shot. Maybe I should just try going back." And as soon as that thought entered my head, I was immediately fighting against it, saying, "Nope, I don't want to do that. I have no desire to do that. I still have the same questions and the same issues. I don't want to do that." And you know how sometimes when you're talking to a child or a friend, and you just, you really need them to understand something, and they're arguing with you and so you just, I don't know, I get the urge to grab them by the shoulders and like, "Just trust me! Oh, my gosh, just listen to me!"
That's what happened to me. The Lord showed up in the passenger seat of my car that day. And it was like he was grabbing me by the shoulders and looking me straight in the eyes and just saying, "Just trust me. Do it. Just trust me." And as much as I could cross off all the other instances as being a coincidence, I could not deny the fact that the Lord was there in the car with me that day telling me to just go back to church. And so as soon as I got home, I emailed the PTO mom and told her, I said, "I think I'm going to go back this Sunday. I'm going to go check it out." And her reply was, "Great! I'm not going to be there. But let me know how it goes and I will be there next week." And so my initial reaction was, "Oh, well, the person who could hold me accountable isn't going to be there so I don't need to go." And that was a little bit strong, but I pushed it away. And that Sunday, I walked back through the chapel doors for the first time in five years.
I wish I could say that angels were singing and it has been all wonderful since then. It hasn't. In fact, that first Sunday as I walked in and sat down, I felt nauseous. I felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach. And as sacrament meeting progressed, I kind of looked over at my kids and I said, "We're going to leave probably when the closing song starts, we're going to get out of here, so no one can say anything to us." But for some reason I stayed. And the interesting part of all of this is that that soccer coach and PTO mom ended up being the bishop and his wife in our ward and they had sent people specifically to welcome us that day. And I had more people that one hour after sacrament meeting say hi to me and sit with me and talk to me, then I had the whole previous year that we had been living in this location. As I've thought back on this experience, the past couple of years, the Lord has made it very clear to me. He said, "Don't you see what I did? You wanted to be home and I brought you home. These people, this ward, they can be your family. You can put down roots here, and you can be home. This is it." And I am just so thankful that the Lord knew where to find me. He knew that he could send someone to a soccer field wearing BYU attire. He knew that he could send someone to my fitness classes. And He could show up in the passenger seat of my car because that's where I was and He came to me. As I have let myself be immersed in this new family, not only have I felt at home at church, but I have felt more at home and at peace within the walls of my own home. And I know that He has brought me to this place and I am exactly where He needs me to be right now.
KaRyn Lay: That was Audra. It's not that unusual to see a BYU hat or a sweatshirt when you're on the West Coast but as someone who once had a stranger jump out of their car at a McDonald's drive through, just to tell me their joy at finding a Pennsylvania fighting Quaker in Utah, I totally get Audra surprise and her chagrin at finding so much BYU blue in North Carolina. I also find inspiration and her willingness to hear and see the Lord's hand and helping her to find a home at church. That takes a lot of humility, especially when, like Audra, you're in the midst of a period of deep questioning and unresolved concern. But isn't that the thing about home? If it's built on a foundation of the Savior the way our God would have it designed for us, it really can be a place where we feel supported and safe while we figure it all out. I'm thinking more about how I can help make my ward that kind of a home, the kind that Audra found in her ward, especially for those among the body of Christ who might need someone to sit with them, to simply sit with them in their unbelief, in their questions or their doubt. You know, with the holidays around the corner, my internal sense of longing to be safely gathered in, while my family home is far away from me is really heightened. And because of that, I've been thinking a lot about this week's theme. Nazar's story was such a great reminder that the plan of salvation provides us with the comfort and the promise of a permanent and immovable heavenly home. But what about those times when we need to know that we've got people, family, home, right here right now like Audra wanted and needed. I think that as we talk about the spiritual power of Christ's ultimate sacrifice to heal us and to bring comfort, it's worth noting another unique gift of the atonement. Elder Bruce C Hafen taught, "The restoration offers people not only the hope of an embrace with the Lord, but also a full understanding of what that embrace can mean. For being clasped in the arms of Jesus, as it mentions in Mormon chapter five, verse 11, symbolizes the fulfillment of His Atonement in our lives, becoming literally at one with him belonging to him and mortality as well as in heaven." Here's the thing: While I love imagining that feeling of being clasped in the arms of Jesus, that's an individual experience. But when we're at one with Christ, we're better able to extend that feeling beyond ourselves. Stick with me, I'm about to make sense, I promise. Picture this: you're in sacrament meeting, renewing those covenants with the Savior, renewing your promise to act as part of His family. And as you look around, you notice all the people in your pew are also partaking of the sacrament, renewing that same covenant, choosing to become the children of Christ, and choosing to become brothers and sisters in more than just our birthright, but in the Gospel covenant. Well, that communion with deity creates community, we become a chosen family of sorts. When I imagine each of us in the loving embrace of the Savior, I'm reminded that I actually am surrounded by home, right now, because I am surrounded by Christ with others. It doesn't always change that longing for home or that homesickness, but here's the thing. Dorothy didn't click her heels three times and say, "There's no place like Kansas." Home was her people. And with God's help, I really believe that we can make His people, our people, wherever our house or ward might be right now. It might mean that we have to spend a little bit more of our creative energy envisioning those around us encircled in the love of the Savior that we ourselves have felt. But when we do, I know that we'll find home, even when home feels far away.
That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thanks for joining us today and thank you so much to Nazar and Audra for sharing their stories and their faith. We'll have the transcript of this episode, pictures of our storytellers and more in our show notes at LDSliving.com/thisisthegospel. In fact, those show notes are the place to go if you're missing anything. If there's something you want to know, go to the show notes. You can also follow us @thisisthegospel_podcast on Instagram and Facebook to get more of the podcast and of this episode. All of our stories on the podcast are true and accurate, as affirmed by our storytellers. And if you have a great story about your experience in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you on our pitch line. So leave us a short three-minute story pitch at 515-519-6179. We listen to every single one of them and really appreciate your time. You can also find out what themes we're working on right now for upcoming shows by following us on Instagram and Facebook. Again, that's @thisisthegospel_podcast. I just listened to a podcast, one of my other favorite podcasts, they had an amazing episode that I couldn't stop thinking about. So I left them a review and I felt so good about myself because I knew that that review would help them in more ways than one. So if you've had a great experience with one of the episodes of this podcast or the podcast as a whole, please leave us a review on the Apple iTunes app, or anywhere that you listen to your podcasts.
This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay with story producing and editing by Kelly Campbell and Katie Lambert. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix At Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom. You can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts like the "All In" podcast, at LDSliving.com/podcasts. Have a wonderful week.
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.