We are excited to start sharing stories from faithful women in our Faithful Female series. These stories will consist of women that have endured hard trials, followed through on promptings, started faith-filled businesses and so much more. We are excited to kick off this blog series with a testimony of conversion by Erica Kiefer, the author of Borrowed Angel.
I used to be envious of converts as I listened to them share their testimonies. I loved hearing how they made a solid choice to change their life and embrace the gospel. For me, I grew up with the church so that knowledge of the gospel had always been there and felt right to me. My patriarchal blessing mentions this Gift of Testimony and how I had a “believing heart.”
Still, there was one line in my blessing which put me a little on edge. It issued a warning to fortify my faith to withstand any obstacle that might destroy my faith or my life. This was a reminder to me that maintaining my natural testimony was still a choice. However, I wouldn’t understand the extent of this warning until fourteen years later.
At the age of twenty-seven, I was living a simple, beautiful life. My husband was in his second year of law school and I was at home in a lovely two-bedroom, one bath apartment raising our first child—Ty Edward Kiefer. We cherished this son of ours who we’d struggled to conceive and felt God had promised him to us. Still, a nagging feeling caused me to worry about his safety, but even with this daily concern, nothing prepared me for that day on March 10th, 2010.
There are some sounds you can’t forget. My husband says my scream that morning was one of them. I walked into the nursery, peered into the crib, and found that my perfectly healthy 4.5 month-old son had died in his sleep. I won’t go into the details of how I tried to give him CPR... or the desperation I felt giving him up to the police officer and paramedics... or that final moment when the hospital staff told me there was nothing more they could. They handed our son to us in a white blanket. We held him, sang to him, and cried with broken hearts, wondering how every parent’s worst nightmare was suddenly our reality.
My husband, Dan, and I suddenly had choices to make beyond the funeral details of burying our only child. Spiritually? Decisions lay before us. How did we see God? Cruel and unmerciful to strip us of our child? Was our Creator the cause of our torment, who chose not to give me a miracle that day?
Choices. One of my favorite parts of the gospel has always been the gift of agency, giving us power in our lives. So, I remembered that I had a choice in how to view my tragedy. It began after leaving our son behind at the hospital. Dan and I went for a short walk together, trying to make sense of this new life of ours. We promised each other that we would rely on one another and always include God in our path to heal. That exchange of words was the first most impactful choice we would make together. Because of that conversation, my perspective opened. I felt God mourning with me and placing Heavenly and earthly angels in my everyday moments. I recognized new friends passing on comfort and spiritual messages to me when I was in no place to hear it myself. I discovered how Heavenly Father continued to use the temple to guide me through painstaking questions. Most importantly, I was able to reflect on the Atonement in a way I’d never understood before.
Two weeks before my son died, I was asked in a routine interview if I had a testimony of the Atonement. I believed it, yes, though I’d never had personal experience with it. When this church leader suddenly asked me to expound on my answer, I faltered—and couldn’t testify in the way I can now. Because nine years ago as a grieving mother, the Atonement was no longer a vague concept to me. I felt it, was learning about it, and confused by it. I didn’t understand how I could feel so much heartbreak and despair, yet also feel what I can only describe as a spiritual buoyancy—like a blanket or a cloud wrapping around me, bringing me peace and comfort and somehow helping me feel that everything would be all right. Then that grief would hit like a storm... but that spiritual buoyancy would also return, ebbing and flowing back to me like the ocean—persistent in its healing power. I eventually understood that this was the Atonement. This new understanding, to me, is conversion. To apply a gospel principle that you believe and feel is right, but then to embrace it and keep moving forward even—and especially when--life gets hard.
Surviving tragedy is much like the aftermath of a hurricane. People scavenge through the wreckage, trying to find their treasures and keepsakes. Spiritually, we have to dig deep for our answers, too. And it takes time. People like to say, “Time heals all wounds”. But I like to say that time itself is not enough. It’s what we do with that time that makes all the difference. I believe that as we place our anguish and questions in Christ’s reaching hands, and accept God’s tender mercies, that we can find peace and healing in our trials.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Erica Kiefer is the author of Borrowed Angel and you can follow along with her on @borrowedangel09 on Instagram.