Beyond The Checklist

023 How to Have Confidence to be an Instrument for God as an Adult Convert with Anne Maxson


Darla: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women Podcast. This is Darla. Thank you so much for being here. I’ve been interviewing different women this whole season, talking about their journeys on the covenant path. And I have someone today that I know you’re really going to love. Her name is Anne Maxson and Anne, welcome to the podcast.

Anne: [00:00:41] Thank you so much for having me Darla. I’m really excited to get the chance to talk to you. We’ve talked quite a bit on social media back and forth, but to get to see you face to face is such a treat. 

Darla: [00:00:51] I agree. I’m very excited to have a stronger connection with you because I have loved the conversations that we’ve had through Instagram.

And I’m excited to introduce you to my audience and have you share them a little bit more. So would you just introduce yourself, tell me a little bit more about you. 

Anne: [00:01:05] Yeah, of course. So my name is Ann Maxson. I’m originally from Northern Minnesota, but now I live in Boise. I am a pharmacist as my job, so is my husband and we’ve got two boys 10 and eight that keep us super busy and moving all over the place, but we are happy and we have a lot of fun together. 

Darla: [00:01:24] I love those ages 10 and eight. That’s fun. I want to dive into your story . Anyone that I interview, we don’t have time to share your whole journey on the covenant path, but I’m just trying to pick out one aspect of someone’s journey.

And for you I want to talk about you as a convert to the church, being the only member of the church in your family and what that has looked like and how that has shaped your journey and your relationship with the Savior. So could you just start off and just tell us, how were you introduced to the church? What was your life like before that? How did all that happen for you? 

Anne: [00:01:52] So for me, like I mentioned, I was in Northern Minnesota, so I was Lutheran like the majority of Northern Minnesotans and grew up in the Lutheran church. Enjoyed my time there. Felt like I had a bit of a connection with God, but not really close.

And then I moved to Northwestern University in Chicago. I was in a PhD program there. And while I was there, I got a little homesick for Minnesota. So I got in touch with a friend that I actually had met at the Lutheran Bible camp growing up. And that friend had moved to Utah to work on the Olympics for the bobsled track.

And he pretty simply said, I’ve been going to this new church out here. It’s really awesome. And you should check it out. It’s those small little things that you can be guided to say to a friend that will help them really, in my case, change the trajectory of my life. So after he had said that it was half kind of wanting to know what it was that he was getting into, it was a defensive side, but also a curiosity.

So I started learning more about the church online, which you can find good and bad. And then I was switching graduate school programs at the time. And so I had gone over to Rochester, New York to interview over there. And they had a Book of Mormon in my hotel room over there. And so I got my hands on my first Book of Mormon and the end of the weekend, I thought, okay, do I take it?

Is that stealing? If you’re stealing stuff, they probably shouldn’t steal something religious. So I thought I’ll leave it. I’ll find one somehow. And so then I did a self referral in order to meet with the missionaries and ask for book of Mormon online. And I thought it would come by mail M a I L, but it came by M a L E male, two elders showed up at your door to all their shorts.

I showed up at my door and I was, I wish I could go back and read my missionary progress record and what they said about me. Same. Yeah. I think I was pretty golden. And so I ended up going to church first because of the scheduling. It didn’t work out for me to meet with them before church, the following Sunday.

So I went to church first and as I walked in, everyone was speaking Spanish, which is a little bit of foreshadowing because later I served Spanish speaking mission, but at that time I could say like, where’s the bathroom and let’s go to the beach. So thankfully, some sister missionaries came up to me and they said, Hey, are you here for the English group?

And I was like, yes, I am. And so they got me in touch with the missionaries for the English ward and met with them and then started meeting with them in my little apartment in Chicago. And I guess, the rest is history. I actually was baptized by that friend that had introduced me to the church.

He was living in Utah still. And so I flew out to Utah and was baptized in Heber City, Utah, and then went back to Minnesota and then drove to upstate New York to start the program over there. And then that same friend, he actually, when my husband and I got married, that same friend acted as my dad, as my witness at my temple sealing. So it came full circle. 

Darla: [00:04:47] Oh, very interesting that you would meet this friend in childhood, right? 

Anne: [00:04:50] Yeah. We were 11 years church camp together. Yup. 

Darla: [00:04:53] And then that he would open his mouth and share about this new religion. And I think that is really miraculous. And so when you tell this story, because I know there’s more to this story.

And, you tell the story and it sounds like, Oh, this was so great. You got baptized and you lived happily ever after, but we all know that is not the case for anyone. And I know that you faced some really hard things  that came along with your decision to join the church. So tell me a little bit more about that. What were the challenges that you faced becoming a member of the church? 

Anne: [00:05:23] For me, I think there were a few different points. So when I chose to get baptized that, that moment when I’d prayed about the Book of Mormon and I met with the missionaries and I knew what they were saying was true.

And I knew that was going to require a change that my family and my friends I grew up with may not understand. And the majority. My childhood. I spent a lot of time with friends. My family was great, but I really focused on time with friends. And so they were such a support and help to me.

And so in some ways I felt like I was betraying them and betraying my family and I’m an only child. I’m an only grandchild on one side. And so there’s a lot of pressure to fulfill everyone else’s dreams that they have for you. And I had done some religious speaking and things like that.

And people had said, Oh you don’t need to go into science. You need to go and become a pastor and things like that. And so the fact that I was turning my back on that was very difficult. And I had reached out to that friend, actually, I found a little quote that he responded. I said, I feel like this is the right thing to do, but how did you deal with this as you were making this decision that was not in line with what your family planned for you? And he said, if I were to tell you to go one specific direction or another, in terms of your faith, I would be a little out of my element. However, you’ve certainly entered God’s jurisdiction.

Anne, all I can tell you is that it appears as though your heart is in the right place. And when your heart is in the right place, God will lead you down the right path if you ask it of him through prayer. I have a testimony that the decisions we often make or the decisions we often feel are the right ones are usually the most difficult or seem the least likely for us to prevail through.

But what you must remember is that God made a promise not to lead his children astray if they give their lives fully to him through trust in and love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you can testify that you are doing your best to show God, you love him, then he will make the decisions for you. In other words, it’s not so much which decision you make that matters, it’s making a decision at all. 

You’ll make a decision and I promise you that it will be what God wants you to do. It will be part of his plan as long as you ask for his guidance. And so reading that really helped me to have the confidence to move forward and choose to get baptized. And my family originally, they were a little upset about it.

I actually, I don’t know if I had told my dad at that point. I don’t think I did tell my dad. 

Darla: [00:07:48] You were already baptized at the point you told your dad? 

Anne: [00:07:51] And he, because my dad, he’s not really into organized religion at all. Like he is a kind, wonderful human being, but organized religion just isn’t his thing. For my mom and my grandmother it was a different story because they were very staunch, Scandinavian, Lutherans, and I was leaving something that was very important to them. So there was a struggle there and that increased when I decided to serve a mission. And I think it was complicated at the time. So I’d moved to Rochester. I’d started a new PhD program there and decided that I didn’t want to be in the PhD program.

That was the first decision. Was okay I don’t want to spend my life trying to write grants to get to do research. I don’t want the jobs that accompany this degree. So I decided to quit my PhD program. And then I was now what do I do? And I was in Rochester, New York.

So it was right by the Sacred Grove. So I went to the Sacred Grove to pray about what to do next. And I’d prayed about serving a mission before, but the answer hadn’t been yes. And this time it was yes. It’s time. But my family didn’t necessarily see that, that way, because there was such a short period of time between choosing to leave the program and choosing to serve a mission.

In their mind, I was leaving the program in order to serve a mission. And so that caused some contention and misunderstanding, I think in our family.  My mom played that trick on me where she’s do you want to come to the store with me? And I’m like, Oh yeah, great. That’d be wonderful. So I get in the car with her and then you’re trapped, like captive audience.

And she just laid into me. And looking back, she’s a mom. She’s worried about her kid. She wants to make sure I’m making the right decisions, but she said, you’ve lost any intelligence you’ve ever had. I think that maybe you’re brainwashed and things like that. And it was really hurtful and I was only spending a few weeks at home before I left on my mission.

So after that experience with my mom and my grandmother was really upset with me too, and only grandchild. And if you serve this mission, you’ll break my heart. And I said, grandma, I know that this is what God wants me to do right now. And I was really struggling. I took some time to go out by a Lake that my dad had some property on.

To go pray and just try and figure out if anybody was on my side. Because at that point I didn’t feel like I had that much support. I have my little singles branch up in Rochester, New York, but for the most part, I didn’t know anybody else who was members. And so I went out and I kneeled down and I was praying to know if there was support and if there was help and just to reaffirm my commitment to following the Savior by serving a mission. And I felt an extreme comfort from beyond the veil from my grandfather, the husband of that particular grandmother letting me know, I’ve got you and I’m going to help and I’ll do all that I can on this side to support you.

And I’m proud of you for doing what you’re doing. And that, that continued on. Even as I went into the MTC. I had brought the temple card for my grandfather to be done by the elders that were in my MTC district. And there was a particular day where I wasn’t sure what time, which days they were doing which ordinances.

And we’d finished up our session. And I was sitting in the celestial room, and I just had this overwhelming feeling of my entire family being there, even those who were here and not members I’d have the feeling that we could all be there together. And I’d had a deep impression of, Anne, you were chosen before this life to be the one to accept the gospel for all of us.

And we are so grateful for you and we are so proud of you and just feeling that strength and that recognizing that it’s not all about what’s happening right here. It’s about what’s happened before and what will happen in the future. And as I was sitting there pondering that the elder came up and tapped me on the shoulder and handed me the card for my grandfather because they’d done his endowment that day.

And just such a reminder of how aware of us God is and how many cheerleaders we have for us. Both here and on the other side of the veil, especially when we feel like we may not have that many on this side of the veil. 

Darla: [00:12:10] Yeah. And you went through a lot of struggle, but you also were able to feel Heavenly Father blessing you.

And when you were talking, especially about this experience in the temple of feeling those family members with you. I thought about covenants, like you were, you had made covenants in the temple and those covenants are what was going to bind everybody together. And now you have the opportunity to help them make those covenants.

 I just think there’s power. We talk about the covenant path, our journey on the covenant path and making those covenants is so important because it does bring a strength and it helps us and your story illustrates that beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I loved it.

I also would love to talk about your perspective as the first member of the church in your family. So you’re first-generation member of the church. And so you go on your mission and you obviously you’ve referred to your husband, so we know you got married and you said you got married in the temple and all of that.

And now you have two children. What does that look like your journey of teaching your children, but not really having those same experiences when you were growing up? How has that played out for you? 

Anne: [00:13:13] Yeah, I think it’s a little complicated because I don’t have that model, like you said of looking at what the expectation is. And I think then sometimes you can get caught up in your idea of what the expectations are. And I think even members of the church may struggle with that idea of this ideal Mormon mom who is fulfilling all of those things you would imagine she would do. And she is wonderful at quilting and she does all these things that I’ve joked about having, I call it my CIC, my kick, my convert inferiority complex, and thinking, Oh, like I’m, I don’t know what I’m doing. And I’ve learned quickly that the most important thing is to rely on the spirit and to know that our Heavenly Father cares even more about our kids than we do, and he loves them and he’s going to guide us in this ways specifically for those children to help them make their covenants and stay on the covenant path. 

And I think that’s been evident with my oldest son. There was an article in the Ensign, I think in November that talked a little bit about this, where I had felt so strongly that preparatory for his baptism we needed to read the Book of Mormon, just the two of us. Like I even, I felt inspired as to what time of day, which room we should be in all of the things. And he and I did that. And from the beginning, I’d felt prompted that we needed to read the last chapter of Moroni chapter 10 up at the temple.

And now that’s our family tradition. Every time we finish the Book of Mormon, we go up to the temple for the last chapter, but it was very evident to me because I was worried. I was like, he’s about to get baptized and I don’t know what he needs to do to be prepared to be baptized. Like I was older when I got, and you start running in your mind.

Like I was older, I knew what I was doing and he’s only eight. Is he just going through the motions? Was I just going through the motions when I was his age, doing first communion and all those different things and just wanting to make sure that it’s real for him. But at the same time, recognizing that Heavenly Father is aware of him and he’s going to help prepare him in his own way.

And so I’d felt that for him and with my other son he just turned eight and was baptized in December. For him, I didn’t feel like that was something that he and I needed to do. So it was we did it all together, all three of us. And while my husband was at work, the three of us would read and we actually read.

We read the Book of Mormon in one week over the summer, which was just a fun. And we’ve talked about how we want to keep doing that, but it’s interesting to me how Heavenly Father will guide us and direct us in the very specific natures of our children to guide us and know how to support them and help them.

Darla: [00:16:03] I really love that you don’t have to have the experience in the church to be guided by the spirit. It’s a good lesson to anyone who does have that experience, who did grow up to just take a step back from that and not just do something because it’s tradition or that’s how my mom and dad did it.

So I’m going to do it that way, but just to take a step back and know that Heavenly Father can guide you. Not only is he guiding your family, but he’s guiding you, your story illustrates perfectly that he’s guiding you for specifically for one child. And it may not be the same for the other child. So I really love that message that just to take a step back and just say, what does Heavenly Father want to have happen?

And to let go of that complex that I love that you call it the convert inferiority complex. You don’t need to have that. I know that, you know that. 

Anne: [00:16:49] One of the things that’s hard about all of that is I can’t go to my family. I can go to my family and say, Hey, I went to the temple and I feel like I need to do this.

Or I read my patriarchal blessing and I think I need to do this. I can go to them and explain it and they’re kind and respectful, but they don’t get it as well as other people. So I think in some ways it shifts your other relationships. Like for example, I have a best friend from college, the college roommate, the girl comes when you have a baby take care of the kids, all those things.

And she, and I have a wonderful friendship, but I can’t talk to her when I’m struggling with my calling or things like that. So I have another best friend she’s in Farmington. She’s a member of the church and I feel it changes the dynamic of the friendships because there’s things where you’re welcome to talk to them about it, but they just don’t quite get it as well as someone who would be a member of the church.

And it’s changed my relationship with my mother-in-law as well, because when I have struggles or questions that I would go to a motherly figure for that are related to the church, I usually go to her because my mom doesn’t totally get it, but my mom has been so sweet and kind. So last year, I was called as the ward relief society president and my mom had her career was a social worker.

And so I had called, and it was trying to explain to her what all was entailed with this calling. And she’s honey, if there’s anything I can do to help you, you just let me know. And if there’s anybody that could just use a friend to talk to on the phone, you let me know. Actually there was a particular sister in the ward who with COVID was having struggles with getting socialization, right?

Like with spending time with friends. So I sat her and my mom up is like phone buddies. And so I’m in Idaho. My mom’s in Minnesota but this lady and my mom talked like every week and are just like little friends. So it’s fun to see how you can help bridge those gaps in their own way. But that is something that has always been harder in that idea of not being able to go to them and explain things like I’ve quit jobs and things like that because I felt prompted to do and I can’t say this was said in general conference and it made me feel this, so therefore I’m doing this. And they’re just like, okay. Yeah. 

Darla: [00:19:02] I think that would be very challenging and very difficult. But on the flip side, I can see how, as an outsider looking into your story, I can see how he’s placed people in your path that fill in for that, that, he’s not letting you miss out on those relationships. He’s providing them in a different way but that he always provides and that he’s there. So I really love that. What advice would you give to someone who is where you were, when you’re praying about joining the church and worried about what your family’s going to think and those relationships, or even shortly after you’re baptized, navigating all that. What would you say to someone who has those same concerns and worries? 

Anne: [00:19:40] I think it’s what I had said before about the idea of that temple experience and thinking about how it’s not all about what’s happening right now. And it can feel overwhelming in the moment and thinking about how that will change some dynamics of your friendships, but when you think about the risk versus benefit ratio, right? I’m a pharmacist. I’m always thinking about risk versus benefit.

When you think about the risk versus benefit of yeah that might shift these relationships a little bit, but it might shift them for the better, and you might be able to have the opportunity to be an influence for good for those people. And the other thing is think about how it will change the trajectory of your life. 

Like for me, I look back at that moment when I was in, in Chicago and I was trying to find myself. I had, I’d said a prayer about a month before the missionary, before I contacted my friend about a month before that I’d set a prayer asking to be directed and saying, I don’t know if this PhD program is the right one for me, God, can you show me what it is so that I can be an instrument in your hands? And then a month later I ended up kind of meeting with missionaries. And then later on when I was on my mission, I was trying to figure out what to do after my mission and I just wasn’t, I didn’t have a home really.

And I had this impression one morning of you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. And I thought how am I exactly? How did you know this is exactly where I was supposed to be two years ago? I didn’t even know what a member of the church, I didn’t know anything about the church. I thought that it was a totally different religion.

And I had the impression of, Anne, I know you and I knew in your heart that you would make the right choices to lead you to become an instrument in my hands. So that same phrase showed up that morning and that impression, and I thought, Oh, I get it. I’d prayed to be an instrument in your hands. And boom. Poof. It happened. It worked out. 

And so I think that when you’re on that tipping point of which way do I go, think about how much your Heavenly Father loves you and cares about you and He wants the best for you. As you follow what He directs you to say, he’s going to make your life so much more than you could ever imagine it would be.

And I think about that in my experience with my family and the way that I’m able to mother my children is totally different because of my membership in the church and my perspective on life, on the crazy world that we’re living in right now. I can’t imagine trying to navigate all that is going on right now without the help of the Holy Ghost.

And without the confidence that I have a Savior and a Heavenly Father who love me more than I will ever understand and will guide me and direct me to know what it is that I should do. 

Darla: [00:22:26] I love that word, confidence that you can do that. And when you were talking, I was thinking we see things mortally and we see this one little moment in time but Heavenly Father sees the big picture.

He sees everything. And we can have confidence in him and we can trust him. And your story just illustrates that so beautifully. You’re just such a great example of that. And I’m really grateful that you would come on and share these things. I know that they will give hope to someone else.

And I do have one final question for you. And that question is how have you seen him felt the Savior in your journey on the covenant path? 

Anne: [00:23:01] I think I go back to that prayer in Chicago of praying to be an instrument. And then having that prayer answered, two years later probably. And  that knowledge that he knows me and has known me longer than I’ve really known me in some ways. You know what I mean? Because we don’t remember where we were before this, but he knows us from then, and he knows our potential and he knows our ability to share light with others and to be members of our family and our, our world family and helping those around us to find the gospel and to find light in their lives and support and help.

And I think for me, that has been one of the strongest things. I don’t usually get impressions that are really strong necessarily. It’s usually just little things. And my favorite hymn is Lead Kindly Light. And there is a line in there that says one step enough for me. And I think that has really helped me along the covenant path is knowing that I have the Savior there beside me to help show me that next step. Just what’s the next right thing to do to help draw me, draw my family, draw my friends closer to him. 

Ah, that’s really beautiful. I love that. Ann. Thank you so much. I just, I do want to let people know that you have a podcast as well. And so if someone’s interested in hearing more of your stories and you’re interviewing other people, it’s called Pebbles of Light and where can they find your podcast?

Yeah yeah, it’s called Pebbles of Light and you can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. I’m on Instagram as @pebblesoflight,or you can find Darla and search her followers. You’ll find me there. And I’m also on Facebook. It’s I think it’s pebbles dot of dot light, but if you search Pebbles of Light podcast, you’ll find it on there.

And yeah, it just, we started up in september, I guess after like years of feeling this pull to do it, and I just really wanted to share a podcast to talk about those friends who’ve been those guideposts and have helped me along my path, and to also encourage others to be a light for others as well.

Darla: [00:25:23] I know my listeners would love your love, your podcasts, so I’m happy to point them there. We’ll put all the links in the show notes and again, Anne, thank you so much for being willing to share your part, just a small part of your journey on the covenant path. I’m so grateful that you’d be here.

Anne: [00:25:37] Oh, thank you, Darla. I really appreciate.

 Darla: [00:25:41] And now here are this week’s journal questions. 

Anne talked about how she felt comfort from her grandfather beyond the veil about her decision to be baptized. She also felt strength in the temple from other family members who have passed on. How have you felt an ancestor helping you in your journey? How have they strengthened you and your desire to confidently follow your Heavenly Parents and Jesus? 

Record the experiences that come to your mind in your journal. Whether you are a lifelong member of the church, a convert or someone who is considering joining the church, Anne shared her advice during the interview that you don’t have to be experienced in the gospel in order to be guided by the spirit. 

If you’ve been in the church for a long time ponder on the traditions or expectations you can let go of to help you receive more personal revelation. And if you’re new to the church, think about how you can embrace promptings with confidence to know what your Heavenly Parents want to have happen in your unique journey. 

Where are you lacking in confidence to move forward in your life?  Think about one step you can take right now toward moving forward in that area. Take the step. And write about how you are trusting God. How are you seeing God lead you to the next step?