Beyond The Checklist

021 Why Jesus is So Accessible to You in Your Journey with Heidi Dunkley


Darla: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. This is Darla I’m so happy to be with you today for another interview, talking with another woman who has had her own experiences on the covenant path. And I’m very excited to introduce you today to Heidi Dunkley. So Heidi, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you, Darla, and looking forward to having our time together. 

I’m so happy that you’re here. And would you just take a minute and tell me a little bit more about you? 

Heidi: [00:00:51] Yes. Okay. So my husband and I are coming up on twenty-five years this summer, and we have seven children ranging in ages.

I have a first grader up to a son just getting ready to get married this spring. We spent the first 10 years of our marriage in New York. And since we returned back West where family has been, and we’re just right in the middle of doing younger children, adult children. I just started working from home part-time over the last year, a month before COVID started.

So, it was a beautiful thing and just really looking for all of the good that is there. 

Darla: [00:01:31] Oh, that’s so great. You really have a lot of experience and a lot of things going on, and I’m really excited to dive into this to a part of your journey and what you shared with me before when we were prepping for the interview was talking about a time in your life when you really had to learn to rely on God. And I know you told me that you were 19 years old, you were freshly married and right after that you and your husband moved across the country to New York and that you really had to learn to rely on God during that time.

So tell me the story, what did this look like for you? What was going on at that time? 

Heidi: [00:02:04] So I actually moved to New York on the day of my 19th birthday. And so I was technically, I was two months away from being 19 when we got married, which makes me laugh because now I have kids that age and I’m like I was so young,  but of course, Darla, I felt totally like I knew what I was doing. And I’m so glad I made that decision. But my husband had an invitation to go play basketball at a university on Long Island. We had both grown up in Utah. I had never been away from home. I’d never lived away from home. My husband had served a mission overseas and when that opportunity came up, like with all the youthful zeal, I was like, yes. That sounds amazing.

Let’s do it. I cried, I think for about half of the flight on the way there. Darla, I remember that I packed rubbing alcohol and like a small radio. I was like, I don’t know what they’re going to have. I need I should have all the things that we’re going to need for our new apartment. I don’t know what, how come rubbing homemade?

Like how come that rubbing alcohol? It makes me laugh. But all these little things that I was trying to bring from home in this effort to be there. So that’s what brought us there. We decided we could do anything for a year. So signed the contract to be there for a year and ended up being there 10 years. Four of our seven children were born there.

Darla: [00:03:28] It sounds like you’re a little apprehensive, you’re young, but you’re like, this is going to be an adventure. Was there a point where you realized, I don’t know what I’m doing? What was the first low point that you felt in that part of your journey?

Heidi: [00:03:38] Yeah. I’ll preface the low point with the most shocking point. I think for me is  landing at the airport at LaGuardia, the traffic, the smells, the humidity. This was in the heat of the summer in New York being greeted by like the whole coaching staff. And it’s very customary there to like kiss on the cheek. Never before had I experienced that.

It all started like moving so fast. We went to a barbecue after, and that night we drove past this mortuary and like around the corner was our apartment and there were no overhead lights. And I think it was that night Darla that I was like, what have we done? How do I go back? Which of course the answer was Darling, you’re here for the year. 

Darla: [00:04:25] But at this point you’re thinking this is a year and you’re saying before, we can do anything for a year and now you’re wondering, can we really do this? Can I do this? 

Heidi: [00:04:33] Yeah. Two twin beds pushed together was I like, I just have I walk in there and smell it.

And it ended up being such like a sanctuary for us. But it was so different in my mind. 

So how did you get through those first few days, weeks? It sounds like there was a little bit of culture shock, maybe missing home and you’re still adjusting to marriage. We all know that in itself isn’t a big adjustment and takes a lot.

Yes. I think one thing to note as well is when my husband got there, he had to hit the ground running. He was now part of this athletic collegiate team and his job was to show up there and to be there and to be totally engaged, which I think even though it was really hard for me to make that adjustment at the beginning, ended up being one of the things I was forced to be with myself in a way that I’d never been with myself.

And I think that’s what assisted me opening up to the spirit and recognizing like physically, I don’t have my family. This was before cell phones; this was before internet. This was just this space of I’m alone, not alone, but physically things are different.

And I think there is this point where it was just this decision. It was the decision to just be all in or as much as I felt like I could be all in, in that moment. I felt good about it. Then I always think about the scripture, right? Where in the Doctrine & Covenants, where it’s I bore witness to your spirit at this time when you know, the night that you called upon me and I gave you that witness.

That is honestly what for me kept me moving forward of, I know I felt good about this. I know I’m in the right place, even though it looks totally different than what I thought it was going to be. 

Darla: [00:06:27] I love that you come to a point where you just have to call back on what you already know and you just keep moving forward.

That’s been a theme of so many of the interviews that I’ve done is that you just have to do that sometimes. So what were some of the experiences that you had moving forward that helped you to grow and helped you to learn, to rely on your Heavenly Father? 

Heidi: [00:06:46] Honestly, this is where the flood gates for me really, really open. My husband was called as a branch president when he was 22. I just remember sitting like on those wooden pews in this building that was built by the members in the 50s and feeling so supported by God. Which is not to say that I didn’t go out into the foyer and cry, plenty of weeks.

Darla: [00:07:14] As your husband’s being called to this leadership position where there’s a lot of pressure and yeah.

Heidi: [00:07:18] Right, where he now is doing school and all of these other things and the experience of allowing people into my life where I might’ve been maybe a little guarded or unsure about how far to allow people in. They became my family. It was almost like God had handpicked these people that offered different strengths for me. And so that was, I think really formative in, we walked to church that first week that we attended that little ward.

And I showed up and I had blisters and mind you I hadn’t served a mission. We’re newly married. I hadn’t lived away from home. Walking to church, for me, living in Utah was very different than walking up Hempstead Turnpike in the summer, and it just opened up a whole new world of people and the blessings that people can be. And there was a whole vast way for me to look at people as accepting as opening in such a different way because everybody had so many different cultural experiences. Everybody was so different. There’s their conversion to the church. Everybody had all of these different stories. 

 There was a time that I remember helping a sister, that I was her visiting teacher, who was just really struggling and was working on Sundays.

And I brought her kids to church with mine. And it almost seemed that as I noticed, people giving us quite a bit of space. There was, it was a pretty rambunctious crew that we had going on there. Again, it was just one of those times where I felt like this is what the Lord would be having me do right now.

Those kids might remember those few weeks where they came to church. Maybe they felt something different. And for my kids to see these other children that were there sitting with us. I certainly, there are a few things that really stand out to me. When I think about directly seeing like the hand of God.

In terms of, I think Gerald Lund once talked about almost like God’s signature, where, you receive a blessing and it’s almost like God has signed his name on a line. And you’re like, yeah, I feel that I get that. My husband had just so fast forward, my husband had graduated. We’d been there for a few years and he had his first job out of college and everything was so expensive.

Rent was expensive. Food was expensive, right? Everything was expensive. And at that time we had our three boys and we went out one morning. We had one car and there had been a huge storm the night before. And I was going to go take my husband, drop him off. We came out and the streets were full of downed trees and all the debris from the wind.

And there was a massive limb that had hit the top of our minivan. And as we came closer, we noticed that the limb had actually it had bothered the end, like the top of the roof in some way. And there were police directing traffic and he said, it looks like you’re okay, but make sure you contact your insurance.

And I was like, contact my insurance. Okay. So I let my insurance know, Hey, this happened, we brought it in and Darla, we walked out with a check for $3,200 for this downed tree that did cause some damage on the roof, but I never would have gotten it fixed otherwise. And that was our rent money. Like we just paid rent with that money and allowed ourselves to pay rent ahead of time. And it there are a few experiences like that where I couldn’t have imagined the Lord would answer a prayer in that way. But I knew that he had orchestrated and allowed for me to be part of that. 

Darla: [00:11:32] Yeah, those are great experience. I love what you said about Gerald Lund.

I’ve read his book, Divine Signatures about, how God does that in our lives. I’m wondering too. And you alluded to this. When you talked about taking another sister’s children to church. What did you learn from the people around you? I’ve been thinking a lot about the scripture in Moroni six.

I can’t remember the verse, but said that the church did meet together off to fast and to pray and to talk about the welfare of each other’s souls and like how we need that. God is in our lives and he’s working, but sometimes he’s working through other people. Sometimes I think in the West we just take it for granted. All of our neighbors are in our ward and then you go to this place where, you don’t really have that connection, you have to create it. So what did you learn from those members and how did you come together and talk about the welfare of your souls and help each other?

And I’m just, I love to hear about that. 

Heidi: [00:12:17] I think I physically just had chills. When you mentioned that. There are so many people within that realm that we still connect to. And we still have these relationships with. The first person that came to my mind was a man named Leroy and my husband and I were asked to help teach him. He became a member and we were asked to do some of the follow-up lessons.

And I remember going to, he was in some assisted living, some assisted senior living, and he answered the door holding onto his walker. And it was like the smile of a child like this pureness and this wholeness. And in that discussion, we had talked about his wife that had passed. He hadn’t really connected the idea of sealings and the idea of what was available.

And he had really had a life full of experience. He’d been in the military. He had been a boxer. He had been a hair salon owner and had such a realm of experience. And here we were like coming together in this space of this little apartment where the heat was always really high. And there was always like the smell of really strong cleaning chemicals and like that became such a sacred space.

And he was at that time, Darla, probably 75. So here I am as a 22 year old, I happen to be a Caucasian who grew up in the same city. He happened to be a 75 year old African-American man who had lived so much of his life. And we took him all the way through those lessons and had the opportunity to drive to the DC temple with him.

And I feel that spirit often. He has since passed, but it is the connection of people allowing you into their lives. That’s what they did for me. It was him opening that door. Walker and all right, offering the only seats that he had in that tiny studio and just being open to loving each other in a different way.

There was another sweet sister. We called her Grandma Moses who lived in an area that sometimes some of the members would be like, Hey, you need to be careful if you’re taking Grandma Moses home after dark, like you just keep a watch out. Every week she would go and buy these little packages of cookies for all the primary children and for the bishopric.

And she was on a very limited fixed income. We once calculated, if she spent $10 on cookies a week, for the six years that we were together in that  ward, it was unfathomable, but it was her way to say, I see you. I love you. And I want to care for you in such a way.

So I think to answer your question. It was looking and opening up in a way that was uncomfortable at first, but recognizing it brought such joy.

Darla: [00:15:48] I think it really sheds a light on, I’m thinking of ministering to other people and we hear a lot about that and we think, Oh, I have to go out and minister, I have to do this. But it does bring us joy. It does bring us experiences that we need just as much as we are providing help for other people.

And I think that’s something that we sometimes lose sight of. And your story illustrates that. Just as a followup question to those experiences that you shared, one of the things that you mentioned when you filled out the application to be on the podcast is you said, I learned to love so many people.

What did you learn about love during this part of your journey? 

Heidi: [00:16:23] I think the thing that I learned most about love is that the ability to see people as God sees them. The first place when we moved there the very first. Job that I had. It was as if, I think almost everywhere we went, we were the only members of the church. That was true for my husband.

I think he might’ve been the only active member at the university at that time. But the right. So the job where I was working, there was all of this opportunity for me to hear other people’s stories and feel the love of God no matter what their circumstances looked like. And I think really, truly at the heart of that question is loving people without having a need to place them in some kind of like container as okay, is this a good person?

Is this a bad person? Is this. If I’m talking to this person, is it going to be dangerous for my testimony? It just opened the door and I recognize inherently we’re all good. Yeah. And that’s the way that God sees us. And because I didn’t have a tight circle around me, I really had to go looking for that in a way that I hadn’t before. 

Darla: [00:17:54] I think that’s really beautiful that you learn to look at people as God looks at them. And to recognize that they are spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Father, and you bring up a really good point too, that sometimes we have to get out of our circle. If we’re stuck in that circle, we have to get out of that step outside of that.

And then we can see people and have those experiences and learn so much. I can just hear in your voice, how much you love those people and what they taught you and what you gained from them. So I know you said you went on this adventure saying we’re going to do anything for a year.

It ended up being 10 years. Yes. So what was it like when you had to leave and you knew you were coming back to a different life again? 

Heidi: [00:18:37] Yeah. Yeah. Which was interesting because when we came back, it was the same culture shock that we had felt so funny 10 years ago, right? 10 years earlier, landing at LaGuardia airport.

As we were getting ready to leave there was that feeling of just the unknown. My, my husband and I both come from very small families. In fact, we both each just have one sibling. And we just felt that we needed to be able to offer some assistance at home and to our families. And while we felt like the reasons that we were making that decision were pure, it was so hard because not only had my husband and I both separately had this growing in our identities, but the only marriage experience we had was in that space with those experiences, with the utter dependence on each other. And so there was so much unknown coming home. There was so much. Will we be able to serve, right? Will we be able to still have these experiences?

What will our lives look like now? And one of our dear friends who drove us to the airport as we were going to take our flight, I just remember she said, I’m sure you guys are hungry. Let’s go get McDonald’s. And so I remember like eating all of the kids, eating happy meals in her car, and . It was just this period, that’s such a beautiful journey and I just remember crying and it was that same feeling, Darla, of this is what we’re doing. It’s almost like I can remember walking those steps in the airport with my children. We had a new baby. And just coming back, almost full circle to that night in the apartment where it was like, this is what we’re doing. It’s going to be okay. This is what’s next. 

Darla: [00:20:47] I love hearing your experiences and I would love to know what have you drawn on since then from that period of time, the experiences that you had what has helped you as you’ve moved forward in your life? 

Heidi: [00:20:58] I’m going to say the thing that I hope was the most powerful place that I made for myself within myself was really knowing and understanding that God always keeps his promises, that the reassurance that I had in talking to my fiance at the time, about making this decision was a promise and being able to trust the Lord, even when I don’t know how things are going to work out.

And I don’t particularly love to do that. If given the choice, give me a few steps. 

The next three or four steps. That would be great. But I think now it’s this ability to look back and say, I feel like he kept his word on everything. He kept that word of, I will be with you even when you don’t see, even when you don’t understand.

And so my hope is that that actually became part of me and not just an experience. I almost envision it as like this part of my soul that is built by that relationship that I felt between the Lord and there were so many parts of it that when people talk about being on a mission, I hold that experience maybe in the same light.

And so it feels very tender and sacred. 

Darla: [00:22:29] I think that is such a great message for anyone, no matter where they’re at in their journey, whether you’re, you’re in the middle of something or you’re reflecting back just to know that God keeps his promises and that the experiences that we have aren’t just for fun.

They are to make us become something more. And it sounds like that’s what that experience did for you, helped you to become closer to your Heavenly Father and become more in line with what He wanted for you. So I really think that is such a hopeful message to anyone, no matter where they are on their journey.

And Heidi, I’ve loved talking to you and just feeling your spirit. And I have felt the spirit as you’ve shared these experiences, and I know that other people out there, when they hear this will have those same experiences. So thank you so much. I do have one final question for you. Yes. And that is how have you seen and felt the Savior in your journey on the covenant path?

Heidi: [00:23:17] When I think about how I have seen and felt, I recognize that the feeling is so accessible. To feel Him is meant to be accessible to us. And I want to offer, I did your course, the five days about prayer and like reimagining prayer. Yeah. Which if your listeners haven’t taken advantage of was so amazing because I felt like what it did was to just reaffirm that He wants us to feel Him.

And that it’s meant to be. It’s meant to be easy and open. And I feel like the more that I’ve been willing to feel, the more I’m able to see. And so when I think about how to answer that question, it is He’s always been there. And there have been times when I have been able to feel that differently or times when I’m looking on purpose.

And there are times where I block it and there are times where I’m not looking, but coming back to my covenants and who I know I am and who he knows I am. It’s just that space of making that connection again. And it’s always. Like it is always available and giving ourselves permission to feel it in the way it’s available.

I think that’s one of the things that I really loved about going through that course was it’s so available? 

Darla: [00:24:58] One of the words that you said that really struck me, I had not thought of it this way. You said the word accessible. The Savior is always accessible to us and I think you’re right. He wants it to be easy for us to come to him.

And that’s why I feel so passionate that he will come to us in a way that makes sense to us. And it’s just figuring that out, but He is accessible. That’s such a good word. I really love thinking of it in that way. Heidi, thank you so much for being here and for sharing your journey.

And if people want to connect more with you, where can they find you? 

Heidi: [00:25:30] I hang out on Instagram.  My Instagram handle is @heidi.dunkley.coaching.moms. And I have a website, That’s fun over there too. 

 Darla: [00:25:43] Good. I will link up all that in the show notes. So people just go right in their app and they can look up all those links to go and find you.

And again, thank you so much. I have enjoyed this. I have learned so much and I’m so grateful that you would take the time. 

Heidi: [00:25:56] My pleasure, Darla. Thank you.

Darla: [00:26:00] And now here are this week’s journal questions. 

Heidi talked about how being away from everything she was familiar with helped her to see God more fully in her life. One of the things she said that helped her was to remember past times when God had given her a witness. She mentioned Oliver Cowdrey’s experience with the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23. 

Read and ponder this scripture. Think about times when God has spoken peace to you. Write your thoughts in your journal so you’ll be able to read them when you need them in the future. 

Much of Heidi’s experience revolved around learning to love others. How can you get out of your own circle to learn from others? 

And an additional question around the same topic. How can you take the time to hear other’s stories and share your own? 

Heidi talked about how accessible Christ has been to her when she opened up to feel Him.  She shared, “The more I’ve been willing to feel, the more I’m able to see.” What do you feel prompted to feel more deeply? 

What is the Savior trying to help you see?